Belfast Telegraph

'They've always been with us': Jonny Evans salutes Northern Ireland's GAWA as fans cheer on friendly win over Czech Republic

Northern Ireland's travelling support celebrates the win in the Czech Republic.
Northern Ireland's travelling support celebrates the win in the Czech Republic.
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans after defeating the Czech Republic 3-2 in Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fan Matthew Webb with the Northern Ireland team Russian dolls in a Prague shop ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans Grahame Cowan and Kieth Dawson in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fan Danielle Gibson from Portadown in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans Stephen McDonald, Ted Rea, Danielle Gibson and Colin Gibson in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans Trevor, Joycelyn and Jonathan Canning from Lurgan in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland's famous Green and White Army are used to praising their players but goal-scorer Jonny Evans was keen to turn the tables after the 3-2 win in the Czech Republic.

There had been 3,500 visiting fans in Rotterdam to watch the Netherlands' late come-back win on Thursday and many made the onward journey to Prague.

They could be heard throughout the friendly victory and centre-back Evans, who scored in between Paddy McNair's two goals, was delighted that the travelling support could be repaid with the right result.

"It's amazing, "he said. "Fair play to them, we're always well supported. We'll see them outside when we get to bus. They're always waiting there.

"I know it's a Monday night away in Europe and it's expensive to come away. A lot of them were flying into Amsterdam then going to Rotterdam and now on to Prague.

"It's fantastic the way we're supported. Even when we've gone through tough times, they've always been there with us. Even the game the other night against Holland, we met a few of the fans in the airport and they were saying it's one of the toughest defeats they've ever felt as a group of fans. It's disappointing for them as much as us."

p v N Ireland_091.jpg
Jonny Evans salutes the Northern Ireland support.

Evans was denied the headlines by midfielder McNair, who proved devastating in front of goal.

"He's a threat," said Evans. "He's a great finisher when he gets in. It's good to see him tucking the first one in the corner with his left foot then the second, we know all about the power he can bring when he's running with the ball."

The side's chances of qualifying automatically for Euro 2020 might be very slim at this stage but McNair still believes.

The Middlesbrough man's first-half double was evidence that anything is possible for Michael O'Neill's new-look side.

The Czech Republic may have made 10 changes to the team that saw off England on Friday but still few would have expected Northern Ireland to blast into a three-goal advantage by the break.

Now McNair is hoping they can take that 45-minute display into next month's final qualifying double-header at home to Holland and away to the Germans.

"I think we can really take the game to them in Belfast," he said. "Hopefully we can get three points, see where that leaves us and go out to Germany where anything can happen."

McNair took his international tally to three on Monday evening and if his surging midfield performance is anything to go by, there will be plenty more to come for the 24-year-old.

"It feels unbelievable," he smiled. "I've got 30 caps now and three goals. Someone said to me the other day I should have more goals so it's nice to add two more. I think as well the performance was fantastic tonight. In the first 25 or 30 minutes we blew them away and definitely came away with what we deserved.

"(His first goal) got the team off to a great start. It came to me quite fast and I snatched at it in a way but it nestled in the bottom corner. The second one, I had a lot of time to think about it. I ran from the half-way line and was just waiting for the keeper to commit and he did.

"I was very tired from running from the half-way line," he continued, explaining a muted celebration. "It was nice."

The hosts threatened to mount a successful comeback when Vladimir Darida and Alex Kral netted two goals in as many minutes but Northern Ireland managed to hold for the single-goal success.

"We knew they would come out," said McNair. "We were comfortably and then they get the two goals. It's a bit of a kick in the teeth but after that, the lads dug in well. Tom Flanagan came in tonight and did well so credit to him and the other lads who came in."

McNair now returns to Middlesbrough, where he has started all 11 of his side's Championships games so far this season. However, with a home game against West Brom coming on Saturday, they could do with a win as they currently sit just one place and two points off the relegation places.

 

 

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