Football/Soccer

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans had Swiss flashback after West Brom loss

Jonny Evans at the 'Sport Uniting Communities' launch at Queens playing fields. Evans is back on international duty with Northern Ireland this week Picture Mal McCann.

NORTHERN Ireland defender Jonny Evans has revealed he suffered his first flashback of his stoppage-time header against World Cup play-off opponents Switzerland following West Brom’s gut-wrenching defeat to Bournemouth last weekend.

Evans has tried to not think about Ricardo Rodriguez’s last-gasp clearance that denied Northern Ireland the chance to force their nail-biting play-off with Switzerland to extra-time last November.

The Swiss breathed a huge sigh of relief and qualified for this summer’s World Cup finals, thanks to Rodriguez’s controversial penalty in the first leg at Windsor Park.

Speaking at Wednesday’s ‘Sport Uniting Communities’ launch at Queen’s Playing Fields, the Northern Ireland centre back was reminded of his misfortune after watching his West Brom team-mate Matt Phillips experience a similar fate in the dying embers of last Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Bournemouth.

Phillips’ goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Charlie Daniels which denied West Brom a point.

“In football the games come so quickly,” said Evans, “and when you go away from the international games you’re concentrating on your club but the wee instance at end of the Bournemouth game where Matt Phillips had a header cleared off the line, that was the first time I thought to myself about the header I had against Switzerland.

“Sometimes you don’t get enough purchase on the header; it happens and then the game is over and done with. That’s the fine lines of football where things can go for you and against you.”

West Brom are rooted to the bottom of the English Premiership, seven points adrift of Stoke City, with just seven games remaining.

Despite West Brom’s unenviable position Evans still hasn’t lost hope that they can climb out of the relegation zone between now and the end of the season, and admitted tears were shed after the Bournemouth defeat.

“We were so disappointed with the result against Bournemouth,” he said.

“It’s fine lines. People have been writing us off for the last month or so. You could see the disappointment among the lads but we’re still going into training every day and games believing. There were a few tears in the changing room last weekend which shows that we’re still fighting and trying to get the club out of trouble.”

Evans, who is expected to win his 68th international cap in tomorrow’s friendly with visitors South Korea, hopes the international break will help the West Brom players to come back with renewed vigour.

“Sometimes it’s good to step away and re-evaluate things and when we do go back we maybe get that wee bit of freshness back in us and it can work as a positive for us.”

South Korea are using tomorrow’s fixture with the North as part of their World Cup final preparations where they face holders Germany, Sweden and Mexico in the group stages in Russia.

Despite it being the North’s first get-together from their World Cup play-off loss four months ago, Evans insists the mood in Michael O’Neill’s squad is good.

“It felt strange that the Switzerland game was the last time we’d been together,” he said.

“There was no doom and gloom or anything like that. I think all the boys are looking forward to playing against South Korea.

“They’ve got some good players – Son [Heung-min] at Spurs and Ki [Sung-yeung] at Swansea – players that I’ve played against before but it’s an opportunity to play against them on the international stage.”

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