Boost for World Cup hopes as GAWA secure emphatic away win

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Green and White Army skipper Steven Davis

Q Radio Sport

Northern Ireland powered to an impressive 4-1 victory against Lithuania on Thursday night to boost their chances in World Cup Qualifying.

There were concerns before the game as Ian Baraclough had to cope without a number of first-team players, but his side produced a fine performance in Vilnius. Northern Ireland took the lead inside 20 minutes as Dan Ballard turned home Conor Washington's superb cross.

But the drama of the game came in the second half, starting when the visitors were awarded a penalty shortly after the break. Linas Megelaitis was penalised for a blatant handball after Michael Smith's fierce shot, with Washington scoring from the following after a VAR review (52).

Lithuania pulled a goal back almost immediately as Rolandas Baravykas (54) curled home a superb effort. It looked like the comeback was on too when the hosts were awarded their own penalty following a lengthy VAR review, but Bailey Peacock-Farrell was the hero of the hour as he saved Arvydas Novikovas' spot kick.

It proved to be the turning point in the game as Northern Ireland pulled further ahead. It was another tap in, this time for Shane Lavery (67) as he netted his first goal for his country. Another penalty then rounded proceedings off too as Steven Davis was fouled by Edgaras Utkus, who should have been sent off in the first half.

Paddy McNair - who was booked for his foul to give away Lithuania's penalty and will miss the next World Cup Qualifier against Switzerland - converted the spot kick (82) and rounded off the must-win victory.

Northern Ireland: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Michael Smith, Jamal Lewis, Daniel Ballard, Craig Cathcart, Jordan Thompson, Paddy McNair, Steven Davis (captain), Shayne Lavery, Conor Washington, Alistair McCann. Substitutes: (used) Jordan Jones, Kyle Lafferty, Alfie McCalmont; (unused) Trevor Carson (GK), Conor Hazard (GK), Tom Flanagan, Liam Donnelly, Niall McGinn, Dion Charles, Gavin Whyte, Alfie McCalmont, Ciaron Brown.

NI's first victory in Group C now sets things up nicely for the WCQ against Switzerland next Wednesday (8 September) when 16,000 fans will be roaring them on at Windsor Park. But next up is a friendly in Estonia on Sunday. 

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