Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland have a new-found confidence in ability to control: Jonny Evans

 

Bring it: Jonny Evans has 12 points out of 12 in his sight
Bring it: Jonny Evans has 12 points out of 12 in his sight

By Paul Ferguson

Experienced defender Jonny Evans insists Northern Ireland's brave warriors are ready to answer their country's call one final time this season in Borisov tonight.

Northern Ireland's players, who have endured a long, hard 10 months with their clubs, were left drained after their comeback victory over Estonia in blazing hot conditions at the A Le Coq Arena on Saturday night.

Evans and his team-mates flew into Minsk yesterday afternoon from Tallinn to be greeted with a warm sunny day with temperatures in the high 20s.

However, with the match against Belarus tonight kicking-off at 9.45pm local time, conditions should be a great deal cooler.

The 31-year-old said: "There are a few tired bodies, especially as some of the players' seasons finished quite a few weeks ago now.

"It's going to be very important to recover well, we've got everything in place to do that and I'm sure we'll be ready for the game.

"We're in a good position at the minute, but we know how quickly things can change.

"It's just up to us to keep that winning run going and hopefully finish with the target we set out with initially."

Belarus have made a number of changes for each of the three Euro qualifying games they have played in - in the away defeat to the Netherlands, the loss to Northern Ireland in Belfast and then at home to Germany last Saturday when they were defeated 2-0.

Igor Kriushenko, the Belarus manager, is expected to reintroduce goalkeeper Andrey Klimovich and attacking midfielders Siarhei Kislyak and Igor Stasevich back into his team tonight along with two more changes.

Evans is unconcerned about the unpredictability of the Belarusian side and is adamant O'Neill's boys will be ready for the battle ahead.

"I think we always do our homework on the opposition which is very important," confirmed the Leicester City centre-back.

"If there are changes, which there were the other night against Germany, there are people ready to show you clips of players, so you can go into the game with peace of mind and a bit of information on the opposition.

"I think the important thing we have improved on over a lot of years now is making sure our own game is right and having that confidence to go in and take control of games.

"I think that's a big thing for us at the moment."

Northern Ireland, if they secure victory tonight, would have the chance of taking on Germany and the Netherlands for the right to qualify for the Euro 2020 finals in the autumn.

Evans added: "I think the way the fixtures fell helped us in a way that the Germany and Holland games are quite a bit away and we can focus on these four opening games.

"We spoke before about dividing the group into a mini-group and that's exactly what we've done."

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