Michael O’Neill is a much happier manager this morning after Northern Ireland’s convincing 3-0 win over Israel in a friendly in Belfast last night.
Their inaugural game against Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Nations League last weekend left them frustrated after dominating possession in the game but two fatal defensive errors left them trailing 2-0 before Will Griggs bagged a consolation goal deep into stoppage time. Last night the GAWA came out fighting against Israel and broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when Steven Davis put a right footed shot in the back of the net from a Paddy McNair corner. Stuart Dallas was next to score when George Saville provided a great cross and he slammed it in the back of the net four minutes from the break.
Northern Ireland enjoyed more possession in the second half, Gavin Whyte the ex- Crusaders striker got his first cap when he replaced Jordan Jones in the 65th minute. Barely on the pitch two minutes, new boy Whyte pounced on a Stuart Dallas cross and fired the ball high into net to bag his first international goal on his debut appearance! Northern Ireland kept a clean sheet and finished the game 3-0.
Michael O’Neill spoke Sky Sports after the match about how important it was to get a win from the game; “It is a confidence thing. It was good to keep a clean sheet and score three goals. At times we weren’t as good tonight as we were on Saturday, but that’s the way football works some time. I believe Bosnia beat Austria tonight, so we have to aim to take something from the two games next month. We have had a really good week and there is competition for places around the pitch. There is a lot of potential around the squad.”
O’Neill went to onto praise debutant Gavin Whyte saying “I was delighted for him. It is a great start for him. He has come into this squad and he has made an impact on training. And you saw the reaction of the players and the crowd when he scored. I have watched Gavin for a number of years and you always saw real talent. You wished he would get the opportunity of full-time football and he got it. He is stronger and quicker and scored three goals in six games for Oxford. Gavin has a knack of scoring from wide positions. He was consistently in double figures for Crusaders.” O’Neill spoke about the introduction of younger players in the squad saying; “We have had to work very hard on where we get our players from. We had three players tonight who could have represented the U21s in Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jamal Lewis and Gavin. What they have given is a bit of freshness to the squad which is important.”