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Washington helps Northern Ireland make history

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 116

Pin Northern Irelands striker Conor Washington (C) celebrates with defender Michael Smith (L) and striker Jamie Ward (R) after scoring the opening goal of the international friendly football match against Slovenia on March 28, 2016.
Northern Irelands striker Conor Washington (C) celebrates with defender Michael Smith (L) and striker Jamie Ward (R) after scoring the opening goal of the international friendly football match against Slovenia on March 28, 2016.

Washington helps Northern Ireland make history

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 116

Northern Ireland made it a record 10 matches unbeaten as Conor Washington underlined his case for a place at Euro 2016 with the goal that clinched a 1-0 friendly win over Slovenia on Monday.

Washington's first half strike and Milivoje Novakovic's missed penalty at Windsor Park made Michael O'Neill's side the first in Northern Ireland history to go 10 games without losing as they surpassed the runs of nine without defeat set twice in the 1980s under Billy Bingham.

It is Bingham's famous teams who O'Neill's group have made a habit of emulating after their shock qualification for this year's European Championships took Northern Ireland to a first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

As Northern Ireland prepare for their first ever appearance at the European Championships, which starts against Poland on June 12, Washington is suddenly in contention to make the flight to France following his dream home debut.

The England-born QPR striker, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his grandmother, only made his senior international debut on Thursday after being called up for the first time last week.

Washington was playing for non-league outfit St Ives just four years ago, but his clinical finish and effervescent performance have given O'Neill food for thought as he fine-tunes his squad.

After last week's creditable 1-1 draw against Wales in Cardiff, O'Neill made four changes as Peterborough defender Michael Smith made his debut.

Slovenia missed out on the Euros, but still possessed enough attacking quality to open up the Irish defence when Josip Ilicic cleverly stepped over a through ball, allowing Roman Bezjak space to drive his shot into the side-netting.

Finally showing signs of life after their slow start, O'Neill's side forced Jan Oblak into action when Washington surged into area for a low shot that the Slovenia goalkeeper saved with his feet.

Washington was proving to be Ireland's spark plug and he opened the scoring in the 42nd minute with a superb piece of skill.

Leaving two Slovenians trailing in his wake with his upper body strength, Washington turned away from a third marker in the area before stroking a cool finish past Oblak.

Jonny Evans handed Slovenia a chance to equalise midway through the second half when the West Bromwich Albion defender conceded a penalty by grabbing Miral Samardzic around the neck.

But Roy Carroll came to his rescue as the former Manchester United keeper kept out Novakovic's spot-kick.

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