Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Jordan Jones relives double nutmeg in build-up to Paddy McNair's 'magic' Northern Ireland winner

 

Borisov boys: Northern Ireland’s Jordan Jones and Paddy McNair after defeating Belarus on Tuesday night
Borisov boys: Northern Ireland’s Jordan Jones and Paddy McNair after defeating Belarus on Tuesday night

By Paul Ferguson

A touch of flamboyant flair ensured Paddy McNair scored Northern Ireland's winner against Belarus on Tuesday night.

New Rangers winger Jordan Jones was proud to admit he and McNair bamboozled the Belarus defence with a double nutmeg leading up to the former Manchester United ace cutting into the box and unleashing a powerfully-driven shot for his first international goal.

"Yeah, I put it through the guy's legs and then Paddy put the ball through his guy's legs," stated Jones. "Then Paddy has gone on to finish in brilliant style.

"There were certainly a few celebrations after that game. It was really hard work, everybody could see that, but I think it showed what great character we have in this team. We dug deep and Paddy produced a little bit of magic and scored the winner for us.

"The team's absolutely buzzing but not many have any energy left after that game."

Jones reclaimed his place in Michael O'Neill's starting XI after excelling during his cameo role from the bench in the comeback win over Estonia last Saturday night.

The 24-year-old showed glimpses again of what Rangers fans can expect to see when Jones dons the royal blue shirt in the Scottish Premiership.

Estonia boss Martin Reim confessed that Jones, when he came off the bench, made a major difference against his side, especially when he set up Josh Magennis for the winning goal, and he was again integral in Borisov as he received the throw-in from Jamal Lewis and put the ball through the legs of his opponent, allowing McNair to run in and score.

Jones said: "I think I try and mix my game up as much as I can. Sometimes I cross early, other times I can go inside or outside, keep them guessing.

"I think I blew up on 70 minutes, it was my first 90 for a few months but I just tried to keep going. I couldn't go off as we had used our three subs and it was a case of just digging deep and to play some part in Paddy's goal, I am just over the moon."

Northern Ireland toiled for 86 minutes in the heat and humidity of the Borisov Arena without reward and had to defend resolutely against the threat of BATE's Igor Stasevich. Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart were once again so commanding at the heart of the defence.

"It was hard in the heat and we were just trying to concentrate on getting one bit of special play. Paddy was able to produce it, he got us the win and that's all that matters," said Jones.

Jones will now have just over a week for rest and recuperation before he becomes the new boy in the class at Steven Gerrard's Rangers.

Having signed on a pre-contract agreement in January, the former Middlesbrough ace is excited about playing for the Glasgow giants next season. He is joined at Ibrox by fellow internationals Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty and Gareth McAuley - although the latter two are expected to leave Rangers this summer.

"I have had my holiday away so I'll just have nine days off at home," confessed Jones. "I've done a lot of travelling recently so I'm looking forward to getting home, resting up and maybe doing some light training ahead of going to Rangers. I can't wait and I want to be the biggest success I can be."

For months, Northern Ireland's players and staff have spoken about the target of getting 12 points from these games and - with that mission accomplished - they will no doubt enjoy their summers.

But O'Neill is already looking forward to September, when Northern Ireland host Germany at Windsor Park.

"We're underdogs playing two of the strongest countries in Europe, but we have given ourselves a chance," he said. "What we have to do next is to take a big scalp and we have the chance to do that, particularly in Belfast."

Things are looking good for Northern Ireland's chances of reaching a second Euros.

Holland may have two games in hand, but the yawning nine-point gap to Northern Ireland will put plenty of pressure on them ahead of their next qualifier, which is away to Germany days before Joachim Low's men come to Belfast.

"The important thing when the draw came out was to try and turn the group into a group of three and we have done that," O'Neill said. "It creates pressure for the bigger nations. We're a tiny nation with a limited pool of players, people don't realise that.

"We've accomplished a lot in this group, it's a relatively new team and our dream is to make it to Euro 2020.

"It was a fabulous experience to go to Euro 2016 and get to the last 16 and the players want to experience that again. They've given themselves a real chance."

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