Jonny Evans has called on his Northern Ireland team-mates to make a little bit of history with a Euro 2020 qualifying win over Belarus on Tuesday.
Northern Ireland head to Borisov seeking a fourth straight win to start a qualifying campaign, something they have never achieved before but also something which appears to be the minimum requirement to keep their hopes alive.
Saturday’s come-from-behind win over Estonia in Tallinn gave Northern Ireland nine points from nine so far but with tougher games to come against Holland and Germany, anything less than 12 from 12 will be a damaging setback.
“That was the target and we’re on track,” Evans said.
“We talked before about it being almost like a mini group and could we get maximum points from these four games.
“We know how tough the remaining four games against two top sides will be, so we want to put ourselves in a good position.
“Germany and the Netherlands still have games to play and catch up on, so it’s important to get that head start.”
Northern Ireland’s outlook would have been very different but for late goals from Conor Washington and Josh Magennis in Tallinn as Michael O’Neill’s side scored in the 77th and 80th minutes to snatch a 2-1 win, having trailed most of the night.
“Plenty of times in the past we wouldn’t have found a way back into that game, but we have a way of playing now and a structure about our game and team shape,” Evans added.
“We know we’ve got to keep playing our game. Yes, we can mix it up a bit as well and go more direct if we have to – that’s always been a strength of ours in the past.
“It’s great to have different options.”
Substitutes rescued Northern Ireland on Saturday, with Washington and Magennis starting the night on the bench, as did Jordan Jones who got the assist on Magennis’ winner.
“I think Michael has talked about that and it’s probably the strongest our squad has ever been in terms of depth,” Evans added.
“Michael has tough decisions to make all the time and it’s probably the toughest period in his international career to pick a team but that’s a good sign for the squad.”
O’Neill handed a first competitive start to Gavin Whyte in Tallinn, and though the Oxford man did not get on the scoresheet he troubled Estonia with his pace and direct play.
Whyte, who has been strongly linked with Nottingham Forest in recent days, got the news he would start on Friday and thanked O’Neill for showing faith in him.
“I’ve been training well all week and even in the camps in Manchester I felt really sharp and I thought I would have a chance of starting,” said the 23-year-old.
“Thanks to the manager, Michael, for giving me that chance.”
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