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Northern Ireland 1-0 Slovenia: Green and White Army set record with 10 games unbeaten

Conor Washington's first Northern Ireland goal helped them set a new record of 10 games unbeaten as they defeated Slovenia 1-0 in Belfast on Monday.

Michael O'Neill's class of 2016 eclipsed the nine-match streak Billy Bingham's team managed when they reached the 1986 World Cup and it was Kent-born Washington, who had only been to the country once before, that was the match-winner with a first-half goal.

Goalkeeper Roy Carroll, 38, then saved a second-half penalty from Milivoje Novakovic as the Northern Irish bandwagon carried on rolling ahead of their participation in Euro 2016 this summer.

Four minutes later Washington came off to a rapturous reception as O'Neill assessed his options from the bench by making six substitutions before the end.

Two of those replacements nearly combined for a second, Josh Magennis almost turning in Lafferty's cross from the right after Oblak had failed to snuff out the danger at the near post.

Slovenia pushed for an equaliser as Blaz Vrhovec smashed one attempt over the crossbar before Carroll was called into action again in the closing stages.

Valter Birsa's effort would have crept into the corner had the ex-Manchester United man not pushed it behind for a corner to preserve both his clean sheet and Northern Ireland's remarkable run.

At the final whistle the PA announcer informed the crowd that they had set a new record of 10 games unbeaten, with friendlies against Belarus and Slovakia to come before Poland, Ukraine and Germany await in France.

Preview and match build-up

Northern Ireland are seeking to make more history in Belfast on Monday night when Slovenia visit as part of their Euro 2016 preparations.

We look at the talking points as the hosts bid to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games.

CAN NORTHERN IRELAND MAKE HISTORY?

Having reached their first major international tournament for 30 years, the class of 2016 have another landmark in their crosshairs. The 1-1 draw with Wales on Thursday equalled the nine-game unbeaten streak Billy Bingham's side managed in 1985-86 en route to the World Cup in Mexico. Anything but defeat on Monday will see them set a new benchmark.

WILL MICHAEL O'NEILL PLAY 3-5-2 AGAIN?

Manager Michael O'Neill is prepared to continue alternating formations in the build-up to France, despite his team looking far more comfortable in a 4-3-3 in the second half against Wales. Three at the back allows O'Neill to include Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart and Gareth McAuley, but are they more effective with two wider players off spearhead Kyle Lafferty?

CAN CONOR WASHINGTON FURTHER HIS EURO 2016 CLAIM?

Washington's Northern Ireland debut lasted just 45 minutes before he was sacrificed as part of the system change in Cardiff. This is the penultimate friendly before O'Neill confirms who he will be taking to the Euros so Washington, a 23-year-old striker born in Kent, will be desperate to prove his worth if given the chance alongside Lafferty.

WILL THERE BE WHOLESALE CHANGES?

With the incentive of breaking the all-time record for unbeaten games, O'Neill may consider naming as strong a team as possible at Windsor Park. That could be bad news for those on the fringes of the team, who are running out of time to prove they are worthy of a starting spot against Poland in their Euro 2016 opener on June 12.

CAN THE HOSTS FIND A WAY PAST JAN OBLAK?

Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanovic retired after Slovenia failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and his place in the team has been taken by Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak. The 23-year-old is the stand-out name in Srecko Katanec's squad and could ensure it is a frustrating evening for Lafferty, Washington and company.

 

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