Northern Ireland men beat Belarus in Euro warm-up

Northern Irelands Will Grigg scores
Northern Irelands Will Grigg scores

Goals from strikers Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Will Grigg gave Northern Ireland a perfect Belfast send-off before Euro 2016 as they extended their unbeaten run to 11 games with a 3-0 victory over Belarus.

Lafferty notched for the 17th time on the international stage in his 50th cap early on before Washington headed in on the stroke of the interval to make it two goals from two games in Belfast for him.

Neither featured prominently for their parent clubs in the season that just concluded but this was an indication that Michael O’Neill may have found the partnership which will start in the country’s first ever European Championship finals.

In-form Wigan forward Grigg, whose viral chant was the song of choice on the Windsor Park terraces throughout, then got the goal the crowd had been begging for as he lashed in his first Northern Ireland strike late on.

O’Neill will reveal his final 23 today, though it was telling that potential cuts Billy McKay, Liam Boyce, Michael Smith, Daniel Lafferty and Ben Reeves were all missing from the squad having been conspicuous absentees at training on Thursday.

On his landmark appearance, Lafferty took just six minutes to make an impact.

Washington turned the ball around the corner for overlapping wing-back Stuart Dallas and his cross into the middle was not dealt with by the visitors’ defence, allowing Lafferty to stab in from close range.

Both Chris Baird and Lafferty then had left-footed attempts blocked before a clanger from goalkeeper Andrey Gorbunov led to it being 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.

Dallas hung a cross under Gorbunov’s nose and when he fumbled under pressure from Lafferty, Washington was on hand to head home

The Green and White Army were desperate for a late Grigg goal to put the icing on the cake ahead of the French sojourn and they got it as he scored near the end.