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Monday 28 Mar 2016
Washington finds target on record breaking night for Northern Ireland

A Conor Washington goal just before the break helped Northern Ireland set a new record of ten consecutive games undefeated with victory over Slovenia tonight.

The Queens Park Rangers man, in only his second international, struck after 41 minutes while a superb Roy Carroll penalty save in the second half maintained the feel good factor very much in evidence at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

Slovenia started arguably the better when, as early as the third minute, Nejc Skubic curled an effort wide of the target.

Skubic then turned provider teeing up Roman Bezjak to fire into the side-netting from an acute angle.

On 14 minutes a stirring and touching round of applause resonated around the ground in memory of late Dutch legend Johan Cruyff.

The visitors continued to create the better chances during these early exchanges with Josip Ilicic forcing Roy Carroll into a save before the half-hour mark with a left-foot curler.

But perhaps the best chance of the game to date came a couple of minutes after that at the other end when Washington skipped his way through the Slovenian defence only to see 'keeper Jan Oblak ultimately thwart his efforts.

Indeed, as the first half progressed, Northern Ireland started to look a more threatening proposition so it was perhaps no surprise when Washington opened the scoring when he first beat Miral Samardzic to the ball, then went past Skubic before cutting inside Bostjan Cesar and slotting a shot beyond Oblak at the near post.

Clear cut chances were at something of a premium during the early stages of the second half although a Michael Smith cross might have paid dividends had someone managed to get a touch to it before the Slovenian defence cleared.

Then, on 65 minutes, the visitors were awarded a penalty when Jonny Evans impeded Samardzic in the area but Carroll proved his reliability once more by guessing correctly to save substitute Milivoje Novakovic's spot-kick.

Another substitute, Josh Magennis, might have extended Northern Ireland's advantage with just over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining but he didn't have time to control the loose ball from a Kyle Lafferty low cross from the right which Oblak could only fumble.

There was a moment of danger three minutes from time when Rene Krhin had a go from the edge of the area before Oliver Norwood managed to turn the ball away for a corner.

And a couple of minutes after that Carroll had to be quick to get down to his left to touch a Valter Birsa effort away before being called upon again to punch the resultant corner to safety.

In the end, though, nothing was going to prevent Michael O'Neill's side getting the win.

Northern Ireland: Carroll, McAuley, Evans, Cathcart, Smith, McNair, Davis, Norwood, Ferguson, Ward, Washington subs Hughes (replaced McAuley 46), McKay (not used), D. Lafferty (not used), McLaughlin (replaced Smith 71), Magennis (replaced Washington 70), K. Lafferty (replaced Ward 60), Hodson (not used), McCullough (not used), McGovern (not used), McGinn (replaced McNair 79), Paton (not used), Dallas (replaced Ferguson 60)

Slovenia: Oblak, Cesar, Jokic, Samardzic, Skubic, Birsa, Ilicic, Krhin, Kurtic, Verbic, Bezjak subs Kirm (replaced Verbic 62), Aljaz Struna (not used), Andraz Struna (not used), Vrhovec (replaced Kurtic 46), Crnic (replaced Bezjak 74), Novakovic (replaced Ilicic 46), Vidmar (replaced Cesar 80), Stojanovic (replaced Skubic 62), Belec (not used)