WORLD CUP QUALIFIER: Ward and Washington grab goals in Northern Ireland victory

Conor Washington slots home Northern Ireland's second goal against Norway. Pic by Pacemaker.Conor Washington slots home Northern Ireland's second goal against Norway. Pic by Pacemaker.
Conor Washington slots home Northern Ireland's second goal against Norway. Pic by Pacemaker.Conor Washington slots home Northern Ireland's second goal against Norway. Pic by Pacemaker.

Northern Ireland moved on to a double-figure tally of World Cup qualifying points with an assured home success as first-half goals by Jamie Ward and Conor Washington secured a 2-0 defeat of Norway.

The perfect start arrived within the opening two minutes as Ward capped a move down the left with a curling effort.

It was a case of picture perfect conditions at the National Stadium for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying meeting with Norway. Pic by Pacemaker.

It was a case of picture perfect conditions at the National Stadium for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying meeting with Norway. Pic by Pacemaker.

Chris Brunt’s pass into the feet of Ward found the forward in space and his turn to the right failed to create an opening but a quick pivot led to space for a curling right-foot shot which nestled in the corner of the net.

Captain Steven Davis proved key to the hosts’ positive play with a composed midfield display.

The return from injury of Craig Cathcart led to a three-man backline for Michael O’Neill’s side that coped comfortably with the visitors’ threat, in particular, the policy of deep throw-ins.

Norway, however, hit the crossbar off a superb volley from Alexander Soderlund that dipped from distance on 27 minutes but smashed off the frame of the goal.

Celebration time after Jamie Ward kicked off the scoring in Belfast. Pic by Pacemaker.

Celebration time after Jamie Ward kicked off the scoring in Belfast. Pic by Pacemaker.

Northern Ireland cemented control just past the half-hour mark thanks to slick work from Davis and an assured finish by Washington.

Davis’ sliderule pass matched the perfectly-timed run by Washington to beat the Norway offside trap and he slotted a shot between the goalkeeper’s legs to make it three goals in as many Belfast starts for the QPR marksman.

Northern Ireland continued to move the ball with pace and tempo after the break and Washington came close to increasing his tally by carving out space for a shot with an industrious run along the edge of the area but his final effort was deflected wide.

Havard Nordtveit forced Michael McGovern into a low one-handed save on 76 minutes with a free-kick drive but the goalkeeper reacted well to push it around the post.

A minute's applause was held before kick-off in memory of former Derry City captain Ryan McBride. Pic by Pacemaker.

A minute's applause was held before kick-off in memory of former Derry City captain Ryan McBride. Pic by Pacemaker.

Norway improved as the second half progressed but Northern Ireland remained compact - with one surprise opening arriving when goalkeeper Rune Jarstein raced out of his area but the clearance was picked up by substitute Niall McGinn, although the resultant shot lacked the height to test the scoreboard.

A minute’s applause was held before kick-off in memory of former Derry City captain Ryan McBride.

NORTHERN IRELAND: McGovern, C.McLaughlin, McAuley, Evans, Davis, Washington, Brunt, Dallas, Norwood, Ward, Cathcart. Subs: Carroll, Mannus, D.Lafferty, Hodson, McGinn (Ward, 79), K.Lafferty (Washington, 84), Boyce, Lund (Dallas, 87), Paton, R.McLaughlin, Flanagan.

NORWAY: Jarstein, Skjelvik, Hovland, Valsvik, Nordtveit, King, Johansen, Sederlund, T.Elyounoussi, Elabdellaoui, M.Elyounoussi. Subs: Nyland, Hansen, Reginiussen, Konradsen, Berge, Daehli (T.Elyounoussi, 53), Svensson, Hedenstad, Berisha, Diomande (Sederlund, 62), Berge (Johansen, 74), Berget.