Football/Soccer

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis hoping for 'special night'

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis is hoping to secure second spot in Group C tonight against the Czech Republic in Belfast. Picture By: Arthur Allison

World Cup 2018 European qualifying Group C: Northern Ireland v Czech Republic (tonight, Windsor Park, Sky Sports Football)

A DRAW would do but a win's what they want. The players will be patient, but are asking the crowd to roar them on to victory.

Those may seem mixed messages, but Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis is hoping that everything works out right for "a special night" against the Czech Republic.

Tonight is about keeping qualification hopes on course, not actually securing progress. Davis rejected a comparison with the home game against Greece in 2015, in which he scored two to secure progress to Euro 2016 n France, instead suggesting:

"It feels very similar to the Hungary game [a month before]. You look at that game, we were down 1-0, 'Bairdy' [Chris Baird] gets sent off, we needed the energy of the crowd to keep pushing us on and we got the breakthrough in the dying minutes of the game, and that was a massive result and boost for everyone.

"I have no doubt the crowd will play their part again. We will need that energy from them, we'll need to be together again."

A late goal from Kyle Lafferty earned a vital draw that night and Northern Ireland have mostly finished games well in this campaign, to Davis's satisfaction:

"Without doubt, I think that's an area we've grown in massively, game management; we don't seem to get the levels of frustration which we maybe had in the past.

"That was evident in the game [in San Marino] the other night… We didn't score until the 70th minute, but we kept the belief and kept getting into the right areas and knew the goal would come. I think that comes with results and experience and the team's growing all the time.

"We're in a very good position. If you had offered it at the start of the campaign we'd have grabbed it with both hands.

"The ball's in our own court. It's a good game for us to have, being at home. We have everything to play for and we're looking forward to a special night".

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