NI skipper Steven Davis says ‘no win, no party’

Steve Davis knows his side have to deliver maximum points against San Marino.
Steve Davis knows his side have to deliver maximum points against San Marino.
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It’s up to Northern Ireland’s players to get the party started on Saturday evening.

The National Stadium at Windsor Park is to be officially opened as San Marino are the visitors for the second game of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

The likes of Carl Frampton, Jimmy Nesbitt and Eamon Holmes will take part in a Lap of Legends at 6.30pm to kick-off a real carnival atmosphere.

But captain Steve Davis reckons it will all fall flat if things don’t go to plan on the pitch.

“Nobody’s going to enjoy it unless we can put in a performance and get the result we all want,” he said. “That’s our role in it.

“It will be great to be back at Windsor - the stadium’s looking brilliant. There will be a good atmosphere as always.”

It’s the first time Northern Ireland will play in front of the revamped Kop, the home of the most vociferous of their world-famous supporters.

“That’s going to be a massive boost,” said Davis. “There’s no doubt it’s been missed even though there’s been special nights in the time it hasn’t been there.”

Northern Ireland are heavy favourites, but they have come unstuck against such unfavoured opposition before.

In the last World Cup qualifying campaign, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan both left Belfast with a point.

“They were sore ones for us to take,” recalled the captain. “A lot of criticism came on the back of them and rightly so. They were maybe a little bit of a wake-up call in many ways.

“We know we have to start the game brightly. In an ideal world it would be great to get an early goal to set the tone for the game. Football’s never as easy as that.

“We’re going to have to be patient, keep moving the ball quickly, keep causing problems and testing their keeper.

“If we go out with the right approach (and) a similar desire to what we showed in the last 18-24 months, I’m confident we’ll get the result we want.”