Belfast Telegraph

Young talent will provide a bright future, says NI captain Steven Davis

Next generation: Gavin Whyte (left) and Jamal Lewis impressed
Next generation: Gavin Whyte (left) and Jamal Lewis impressed

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis predicted more international heroics from Gavin Whyte after he made a dream senior debut last night.

The former Crusaders hero, who joined Oxford United in the summer, opened his Northern Ireland account a mere 106 seconds after replacing Jordan Jones in the 65th minute of the friendly against Israel.

Davis struck first with a powerful finish from Paddy McNair's corner in a well rehearsed move and Stuart Dallas' volley from George Saville's cross made it 2-0 before the break.

Whyte then netted with his first touch, following in the footsteps of former Linfield favourite Paul Smyth who scored on his senior Northern Ireland debut against South Korea in March.

Southampton ace Davis delivered another midfield masterclass but he was happy for Whyte to claim the headlines.

"We want to make Windsor Park a difficult place to come to, and the team is continually evolving with new players coming in and it was a dream start for Gavin Whyte," beamed Davis.

"The lads who have come in made a good impact in the game and there's good competition for places.

"Not many players have scored with their first touch on their debut so I'm sure Gavin will be delighted. He has looked very sharp in training and was itching to get his chance.

"It's nice to see him get on the pitch and the scoresheet.

"I missed the summer trip to Central America when Gavin was involved and it's the first time I've seen him up close. The full time training will really improve his game and he's been scoring goals for Oxford.

"His confidence will be high and he anticipated the rebound very well for the goal. You've got to be in there to score and he took it well. I'm delighted for him and hopefully he has a big international career ahead of him."

Davis felt the performance and result was a timely lift to the squad ahead of next month's away double header against Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Nations League.

"It was another really positive performance," added Davis, whose goal was his 11th for his country. "The most important thing was for us to put the two together, get the performance and the result.

"We wanted to get back to winning ways as soon as possible and it was a pleasing night.

"I haven't seen the strike again but we have worked on those in training and it's nice to see one come to fruition. We know how important set plays can be and they have been very important for us over the years. It was nice to see the chances go in.

"We spoke about being more clinical after Saturday and we got the ball into good areas. We probably should have scored more but we can take a lot of positives going forward."

After the defeat to Bosnia on Saturday, Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill was looking to taste that winning feeling again and the boss will be encouraged by his side's composed display.

"It can be frustrating for the lads who don't get the game time but the players who have played have performed well and given Michael something to think about," added Davis.

"They have applied themselves very well, and that's so important for the squad.

"I'm pleased with the way the squad is moving forward. There was always going to be questions asked after Chris Brunt retired but we have players who can step up. Jamal (Lewis) has looked really assured in that position and he's been a huge bonus for us."

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