Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's classy Conor is right on the money with wing wizardry of Ward

Conor McLaughlin's partnership with Jamie Ward had all the right moves for Northern Ireland in their impressive 2-1 victory over Finland.

The pair combined brilliantly down the right wing to torment the visiting defence and create what turned out to be the crucial winning goal, scored by Kyle Lafferty.

It was another fantastic evening of international football for McLaughlin. He must think this game is easy.

Looking for a right back at the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill turned to the inexperienced McLaughlin and his faith in the Fleetwood defender has been rewarded in every game. McLaughlin has now established himself in the position and clearly he and Ward have got something going too.

"Yes, we enjoy playing together," said the 23-year-old, after winning his eighth cap.

"I thought Jamie had a brilliant game. He was turning their left back inside out all the time and it made it easier for me to support him.

"Hopefully we can keep building on the partnership for the rest of the campaign."

Lafferty will second that after Ward's industry and McLaughlin's accuracy with his cross helped the Fermanagh man to a headed goal.

McLaughlin was full of praise for the big striker.

"He is unbelievable at the moment. Anything that comes into the box he is eating it up," said McLaughlin.

"As long as we keep creating chances for him and he keeps scoring goals we should be alright."

McLaughlin admitted Northern Ireland were not at their best early on, but as the game progressed he was certain a home victory was on the cards.

"Early on they got in behind us a few times so it wasn't a great start but I thought we grew into the game and the more it went on we looked to be only team that would win it," he said.

"We knew it was a massive game in terms of putting distance between ourselves and Finland in the group.

"There is still a long way to go in the group, but we are in a good position and now the aim will be to look forward to playing Romania in the summer at Windsor Park and get another good result then."

Belfast Telegraph