Stoke City midfielder Jordan Thompson produced a man-of-the-match performance as Michael O’Neill’s side eased their relegation worries with a 2-0 victory over Cardiff City at the weekend.
The 23-year-old made his first start the previous week in left midfield but was given a holding role in the centre of the park for the visit of the Welsh side to the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.
The former Manchester United and Rangers player, who joined City from Blackpool last month, proved his worth when he sent over the corner that led to the Potters' opening goal.
“The reason we played him on the wing last week was because he was left footed and we didn’t have that many options with James (McClean) and Thibaud (Verlinden) both injured,” explained the Stoke boss Michael O’Neill.
“He’s important to have in the team because his delivery from set plays is good and that’s an important part of the game.
“It was a good game by Jordan and I thought Nick Powell was very good as well.”
Elsewhere in the Championship, Stuart Dallas played the full 90 minutes as Leeds United continued their push for automatic promotion with a narrow 1-0 home win over Reading.
Striker Josh Magennis was in the Hull City side that fell to a 2-1 defeat at Preston while George Saville also started Middlesbrough’s defeat at lowly Barnsley with Paddy McNair coming on as a substitute for the final quarter of the game.
In Scotland, in-form striker Billy Mckay took his goal tally for the season to 11 after his brace condemned 10-man Aberdeen to a 2-1 home defeat.
The 31-year-old has now hit five goals in his last four outings for County who are now eight points clear of the relegation zone.
“Billy Mckay’s finishes were totally different,” said County co-boss Steven Ferguson, “but I’ve said long enough if we can provide the chances he’ll take them.”
Hearts trio Liam Boyce, Conor Washington and Michael Smith all had a weekend off after their Friday night clash at St Mirren was called off because of a waterlogged pitch.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis was rested by Rangers boss Steven Gerrard following the midfielder’s European exertions against Sporting Braga in midweek.
The 35-year-old did manage 14 minutes from the substitute’s bench though as Rangers’ title hopes suffered a further dent following the 2-2 draw at Tommy Wright’s St Johnstone.
Finally, goalkeeper Conor Hazard kept his second clean sheet on the bounce as Dundee moved up into third in the Scottish Championship table following their 1-0 success at Queen of the South.
The 21-year-old, who is back on loan at Dens Park from Celtic until the end of the season, admits he is keen to win back his place in the senior International squad and he feels regular first team football will help him achieve that.
“The aim is to get as many games under my belt when I am here and, hopefully, some good performances,” said Hazard.
“There are internationals coming up in a few weeks and we’ll see how that goes. I do want to get back into the international squad and my other aim is to impress my parent club, Celtic, while I’m here.”