Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland 1-0 Slovenia: Perfect 10 cheers fans as French Euro 2016 party looms

By Ian Cahoon

It may have only been a friendly, but the 1-0 victory over Slovenia summed up much of what's good about supporting Northern Ireland at the moment.

A new-look Windsor Park is three-quarters completed and now has the feel of a first class international football ground.

Coupled with a first-ever European Championships just weeks away, this is a great time for the Green And White Army.

And after last night's win they might also have a new hero in their midst as QPR striker Conor Washinton lashed in his first goal on only his second start, going off the pitch in the 70th minute to a standing ovation.

Gareth Brown said: "I thought he looked really lively.

"He created a really good chance for himself that would have been a great goal and then took his goal really well.

"I still think we'll need someone up there with a bit of height, but he could be a good option to have beside a big man.

"I'd say he's done his chances no harm at all."

The result also saw O'Neill's men make history as they became the first Northern Ireland side to go 10 matches unbeaten.

Andy Montgomery said: "I think the chance to make history gave the players a wee bit of extra incentive.

"It also keeps the momentum going and if we can go to Euro 2016 still unbeaten then we'll all be confident.

"It's really enjoyable going to watch Northern Ireland at the minute. Long may it continue!"

James Matchett added: "It's crazy to think that we've gone 10 games unbeaten when you think of where we have come from, even at the start under Michael O'Neill.

"We've always had a few decent individual players, but O'Neill has managed to gel together a team and that's why we're getting results.

"Successful Northern Ireland teams of the past have always been built around a strong team ethic and this one seems to have that as well."

O'Neill's side had an experimental element to it, with home debuts given to Michael Smith and Washington, while Roy Carroll, Shane Ferguson and Jamie Ward came into the starting line-up having been on the bench against Wales.

Gary Duke said: "You have to use games like this to have a look at certain players

"Who knows what might happen injury-wise between now and the Euros, so Michael O'Neill needs to know who he can turn to."

Another talking point for the fans last night was the introduction of half-time substitute Aaron Hughes, who is closing in on 100 caps for this country.

Stephen Curry said: "I know he's well into his 30s but I hope he goes to France.

"With the commitment he has shown for the last 20 years he deserves to."

Belfast Telegraph