NI boss Michael O’Neill delivers his verdict on Gavin Whyte’s dream deubt

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill praised Gavin Whyte after the 22-year-old scored with his first touch in international football in a 3-0 friendly win over Israel.

Whyte added to first-half strikes from Steven Davis and Stuart Dallas less than two minutes after coming on as a substitute in the 65th minute.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

O’Neill said in the build-up to the game how impressed he had been with Whyte’s improvement since his summer move from Crusaders to Oxford, and he certainly wasted no time in making an impact.

“Gavin has an eye for goal and in a wide player that’s a great ability to have,” O’Neill said.

“He was consistently a double-figure goalscorer when he was here in the domestic league, he’s already got three goals in six for Oxford and now he’s opened his international career with a goal so that’s a big plus for us.”

Northern Ireland may not have created as many chances as they did on Saturday but they did create cleaner openings which they could take advantage of.

Stuart Dallas wheels away to celebrate his goal last night at the National Stadium. Pic by Pacemaker.

“Maybe that’s down to Bosnia as well,” O’Neill said. “They defended well, defended in numbers and were strong in that aspect.

“The game was different because there was probably more space at times. We weren’t dominating and playing in their half so things did open up for us.”

O’Neill was delighted to return to winning ways and build some confidence before the UEFA Nations League resumes next month with trips to Austria and Bosnia.

“In many ways it felt like, particularly in the first half, we played better on Saturday, but the result was important,” he said. “You talk about getting back to winning ways and we certainly did that.”

Dream debut: Northern Ireland's Gavin Whyte

Meanwhile, Whyte revealed his mother would have to wait to discover he had scored with his first touch in international football as she missed last night’s game over Israel to fly out on holiday.

While Whyte’s father and brother were watching at Windsor Park, mother Patricia was on a plane bound for the United States and missed it.

“My mam is actually on holidays at the moment,” Whyte said. “She sent me a text to wish me luck before but she was travelling during the match so I’ll have to send her the highlights.”

“It (the goal) was special just to get on and it’s something I’ll never forget,” Whyte added. “The only thing to do was to hit it quick and that’s what I did. Thankfully it went in.”

O’Neill’s team were facing an Israel side under new management - with Andreas Herzog’s first game in charge on Friday also ending in defeat.

They host Scotland next in the Nations League in October and Herzog said he now has a better idea of what he needs to focus on.

“Now I have more ideas about my players which is very important for me,” the Austrian said.

“I saw a few minutes (of Scotland) yesterday. They look a good team with kind of the same style as Northern Ireland, though I think it will be different because Northern Ireland were playing at home and Scotland will be away,” he added.

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