Belfast Telegraph

The GAWA can help us make it a special night, says Northern Ireland captain Davis


By Steven Beacom

Captain Steven Davis has insisted that Northern Ireland plan to clinch second spot in their World Cup group in style at Windsor Park tonight and have no intention of playing for a draw against the Czech Republic.

Michael O'Neill's men need only a point to secure runners-up spot in the table behind Germany and move a massive step closer to booking a play-off place, but Southampton star Davis is clear that the players will be going all out for another famous victory in Belfast.

They have become the norm in the last two campaigns with qualification for Euro 2016 and three home wins out of three so far in the 2018 World Cup series.

Midfielder Davis, such an inspirational and influential figure for Northern Ireland, said: "Our mentality is to approach every game wanting to win it and that won't change this time.

"We are expecting a difficult test and even though a point will ensure us second place, we'll be going for the win.

"I'm sure Windsor will be bouncing and hopefully with that energy inside the ground we can make it a special night.

"We're in a very good position in the group. If you had offered it to us at the start of the campaign we'd have grabbed it with both hands.

"The ball's in our own court, this is a great game for us to have, we have everything to play for and we are all looking forward to another big night at Windsor."

Skipper Davis netted a penalty in Friday night’s 3-0 victory against San Marino after a Josh Magennis brace had eased much of the tension with the game remaining scoreless until the 70th minute.

Northern Ireland’s captain fantastic believes a vital area of improvement in the side in recent years has been the ability to manage games late on.

He is in no doubt whatsoever that if tonight’s crunch encounter with the Czech Republic goes right down to the wire that the home team have the mindset to cope.

“I think that’s an area we’ve grown in massively, game management,” said the former Rangers star.

“We don’t seem to get levels of frustration like in the past and that was evident in the game (against San Marino) the other night.

“That comes with results and experience. This team is growing all the time.”

Only World champions Germany have scored against Northern Ireland in this qualifying campaign.

The other team to avoid defeat to O’Neill’s side in the group is the Czech Republic — the sides drew 0-0 in Prague in the opening match.

Since then, Northern Ireland have moved an impressive seven points ahead of this evening’s opponents.

“They are very comfortable in possession and their players want to get between the lines,” added Davis.

“We’ll not underestimate them but we have real belief in our side and there is great determination amongst all our players to deliver an important result.”

Belfast Telegraph

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