Northern Ireland 2 Norway 0: We can dare to dream... againQuick-fire goal hero Ward puts us on the fast track to Russia
Quick-fire goal hero Jamie Ward is confident the experience of qualifying for last year's Euro finals can give Northern Ireland the edge when it comes to securing an historic place at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
Ward scored one of the fastest ever goals at Windsor Park last night, after 90 seconds, and Conor Washington netted his third in three home starts as Northern Ireland comfortably beat Norway 2-0 and effectively eliminated Lars Lagerback's men from Group C qualification.
Michael O'Neill's men now sit proudly in second place behind leaders Germany on 10 points.
Ward said: "We are not getting carried away, we have been in this position before with the Euros so we have the experience of dealing with these type of pressurised games. We are just extremely confident going into every game and we are not worrying about what other teams in the group do. We have a made a good start with 10 points and just have o focus like we did in the Euros."
Northern Ireland go into the second half of the campaign knowing qualification for their first World Cup finals in nearly 40 years is well within their grasp.
Ward’s goal, which was a brilliant turn and shot after only 90 seconds, was one the quickest in a competitive game at Windsor Park since the mid-1970s.
The Norwegians, who needed to win this game to keep alive their slim hopes of finishing second in Group C, were shellshocked.
A crucial goal in a crucial game but Nottingham Forest attacking midfielder Ward was just pleased to once again make a positive contribution for Northern Ireland in these qualifiers.
The 30 year-old added: “I just got into a nice position. Brunty, to be honest, gave me a bad cross and I tried to take it with the outside of my foot but I’ve completely miskicked it and the gap just opened up nicely for me to find the bottom corner.
“Thankfully it went in and got us off to a great start.
“It’s always special to score in front of the Windsor fans, in this great stadium, and they once again gave us unbelievable support which really spurred us on.
“Getting off to a great start allows us to relax into the game. We started to get the ball down and moving it about and then got the second goal through Conor (Washington).
“It was a great ball from Davo and Conor slotted it away really well.”
The Norwegians had considerable size and strength in their team and at times the game was feisty affair, but Northern Ireland never backed down and it seemed to unnerve Lagerback’s men.
Ward added: “They are a big team, they have got some really good players so we expected a tough game and that’s what they gave us.
“They tried to mix it up a bit but I think you can see that we don’t shy away from a battle and we are willing to fight.”