Belfast Telegraph

Green and White Army left purring as team hit heights

By Iian Cahoon

Northern Ireland fans were left singing in the rain after seeing their heroes coast to victory at the National Stadium last night. It has been a memorable year for the Green and White Army and the 4-0 success over Azerbaijan could be pivotal, as they look to book a place in the second major tournament in a row.

Typical November weather greeted the players on to pitch as the torrential rain continued to pour, but so did a rousing reception from all four sides of the new stadium.

A capacity crowd of more than 18,000 roared Michael O'Neill's men on to a polished performance.

Gareth Scott, from Bangor, said: "I think the two goals in the first half made all the difference.

"That deflated them and it took the pressure off us a lot, because the longer it goes 0-0 the more edgy you become.

"I think you could see people enjoyed themselves more in the second half. Will Grigg coming on was a good excuse to give his song a good airing too!"

Fellow fan Andy Ward was also purring after the win which lift Northern Ireland into a play-off position.

"I thought we were brilliant against Azerbaijan," he added.

"It was our best performance of the group because they came here in second place and hadn't even conceded a goal.

"We were really comfortable against them from start to finish. The boys are playing with so much confidence at the minute.

"We're into second place, let's hope we can hold on to it now."

Chris Brunt was named man of the match after an assist and a goal on his return to action after a year out.

"Brunt was brilliant and showed what a class act he is," Gavin Campbell said.

"If we had him available in the Euros, then who knows but he showed what a big player he was for us.

"Kyle Lafferty took his goal really well, and his goal return when he plays is second to none - let's hope he has another big campaign, like the last one."

John Coleman believes boss O'Neill is getting it right at both ends of the pitch.

He added: "The defence were excellent again, they barely had a shot on target the whole night.

"They maybe came into a bit more in the second half, but there weren't very many shots from inside our box.

"(Jonny) Evans and (Gareth) McAuley are brilliant together. You can tell they play beside each other every week in the Premier League. When you concede as few goals as we do then it always gives you a chance in matches, doesn't it?

"Traditionally we don't score very many, but that's eight in the last two home matches, so not bad!"

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