Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland stars proved fitness despite lack of club minutes: Dallas

 

Flying high: Stuart Dallas is thrilled to be top of Group C
Flying high: Stuart Dallas is thrilled to be top of Group C

By Steven Beacom

Stuart Dallas has hailed the resilience of the Northern Ireland team for taking them top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group.

Leeds United star Dallas was involved in the move that ended with an 87th-minute winner for Josh Magennis in Sunday's 2-1 victory against Belarus.

Michael O'Neill's side could have been frustrated having dominated for long periods, but stayed strong and were finally rewarded, picking up their second win in succession at the start of the Group C campaign.

"We kept believing in what we were doing and kept going right to the end," said Dallas. "You've got to give the boys credit because it was a tough game. We had to dig deep and I think it says a lot about the resilience in the squad.

"We kept going right to the end despite a lot of people not playing a lot at their clubs recently. We showed that we're fit enough to go that extra distance. It's a great result which sets us up nicely for the summer now.

"It's no secret, the target was six points and we had to win these two games to give ourselves a chance to build momentum and we've done that.

"We need momentum. We didn't get it in the Nations League and it was vital we hit the ground running.

"We've done that and it gives us a great chance heading into the summer against Estonia and Belarus. They'll be two tough games but it's a chance for us to build more momentum, and if we do, we'll be in a good place."

With Northern Ireland ahead of Germany and Holland in the group at this stage, Dallas joked: "If it finished now, it'd be alright! We've set ourselves targets and we're on course for that and we can look forward to the two summer games. Hopefully we can get another two victories."

By then Dallas may be a Premier League player with promotion-chasing Leeds.

"It's going to be a good run-in and it'll be enjoyable," he said. "We'll go back, regroup and hopefully get three points on Saturday against Millwall."

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