Belfast Telegraph

Loyal Northern Ireland fans finally rewarded with stunning success

By Ian Cahoon

It was just the night everyone had been waiting for – especially the fans.

They had to endure a frustrating 13-game winless run but last night they partied just like those famous nights when victory over England, Spain, Denmark and Sweden were all secured.

As the minutes ticked down the sense that their heroes could pull off the latest shock at Windsor Park grew.

After the last international in south Belfast defender Gareth McAuley questioned the involvement of the fans but there was no doubt of their togetherness on the way off the pitch last night.

Michael Scullion was especially pleased to remind the visiting manager of his sentiments before the game between the two sides a year ago.

He said: "It's only Northern Ireland? Isn't that what Fabio Capello said before the game in Moscow – maybe he will have a bit of respect after last night's game.

"And be fair to us, this wasn't a total backs to the wall job either, we showed that we could play and probably had the better chances overall.

"Yes, we had to defend well at times but it shows what we're capable of and without two of our best players in Kyle Lafferty and Jonny Evans as well.

"I think what Northern Ireland needed more than anything else was confidence and we're bound to get it now. Bring on Portugal next month now, I can't wait!"

Coleraine man Gareth Clarke added: "It's been a long, old campaign and at times you wonder if we're ever going to win again.

"And when you saw the teamsheet I have to be honest and say I wasn't too confident either, but fair play to every single player. You could see how much they wanted it from the kick-off and I think as the game went on they saw there was nothing to be frightened of.

"I saw the game in Moscow and they didn't look brilliant and they were even worse here!"

Gary Flanagan, from Belfast, says last night proves the old adage of why the fans vow to support the team evermore as they sealed their first win of the group.

"That's why you keep coming!" he said. "If you decide to pick and choose your games with Northern Ireland then you'll get caught out. Maybe the snow was meant to come just when it did in March!

"It's funny how things work out with Kyle Lafferty expected to start and it's his replacement Martin Paterson who gets the goal!

"Sometimes that how football works, you have to take your chance when you get it and he certainly did."

Taylor Kirk, from Ballyclare, said: "What a performance, each player gave it their all and we played football but didn't over play it, it was a pleasure to watch.

"I could name most of them as stand outs but Paterson, McAuley and McGinn deserve particular mention for me.

"I think O'Neill deserves praise too, he got it spot on, on the night with the formation which I'm a big fan off if you have the right players.

"The man up front on his own needs to be a workhorse and be able to bring other players into game when he gets the ball and Paterson didn't half do that."

Antrim man Andrew Campbell was particularly pleased for Michael O'Neill as he picked up his first win as manager.

"I'm really pleased for Michael O'Neill, it's about time he got the reward for his hard work as manager. It wasn't his fault he came in when the squad were on their backsides in terms of confidence.

"If people doubted that the players were playing for him or giving their all then it was answered in this match.

"They always looked to be up for it under Michael but we were just missing that wee rub of the green and a goal! I just hope we use this to kick on!"

Belfast Telegraph

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