Paul Smyth marked his first begin for Northern Eire with a aim and an help as Michael O’Neill’s aspect noticed off San Marino 3-0 to finish a five-game dropping streak.
QPR striker Smyth, incomes a sixth cap, scored his first aggressive aim for his nation simply 5 minutes in after which teed up Josh Magennis to web the second moments later, however, in a largely drab affair at Windsor Park, it took till the 81st minute for Northern Eire to seize a 3rd as substitute Conor McMenamin acquired his maiden strike.
Victory over a aspect ranked 207th and final on the earth will do nothing to unravel the larger issues which have plagued Northern Eire all through a depressing Euro 2024 qualifying marketing campaign and past, however it does not less than change the narrative as they recorded a primary house win in over a yr.
Trying to combine issues up, O’Neill introduced a variety of contemporary faces into his beginning line-up, with Conor Hazard making his first aggressive look in aim and first begins for Smyth and Dale Taylor.
Nearly instantly the 2 forwards mixed as Taylor met Smyth’s low cross on the close to publish, however he was unable to maintain his shot down from a tough angle.
Regardless of, as a result of two minutes later Smyth scored, arriving on cue to volley in Jamal Lewis’ dinked cross from the left.
And solely six minutes later, Magennis doubled the benefit as Smyth turned supplier, driving a low cross in from the correct which Magennis turned in on the close to publish – his first aim because the winner towards Kosovo in September 2022, Northern Eire’s final Windsor Park victory earlier than this.
Any fears that San Marino may upset a struggling Northern Eire aspect dissipated they usually continued to drive ahead towards their part-time opponents, with Daniel Ballard heading narrowly large and Trai Hume sending a shot over from distance after being inspired to attempt his luck by the gang.
Smyth thought he had a second within the thirty first minute when Jonny Evans despatched ahead a protracted ball and he arrived to elevate it over the goalkeeper with one other volleyed end, however it was dominated out for offside after a prolonged VAR examine.
However regardless of the scoreline the ambiance inside Windsor Park felt flat, to the extent that at one level within the first half chanting was even performed on the PA system, and it was not helped when a torrential downpour earlier than half-time despatched these within the household stand scrambling for canopy.
The 19-year-old Taylor had possibilities to emulate Smyth’s achievement on his first begin after the break, however headed over from Paddy McNair’s free-kick after which squandered a greater alternative simply earlier than the hour, poking a shot large after being performed in by Magennis.
O’Neill then introduced on one other thrilling teenager in West Ham striker Callum Marshall, one in every of three adjustments as Conor Washington and Isaac Value additionally got here on with Smyth, Magennis and Evans departing and Ballard taking the captain’s armband.
Washington was lucky to keep away from an nearly speedy pink card when he related closely with the ankle of Lorenzo Lazzari, however referee Bram van Driessche determined a yellow card was ample after being suggested to examine the replay.
San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini made a double save to disclaim Value after which Marshall however Northern Eire have been struggling to carve out clear possibilities because the guests defended deep.
However McMenamin got here on together with Brodie Spencer with a bit over 10 minutes left, and the St Mirren winger was on the scoresheet moments later.
Benedettini acquired a hand to a robust strike from Washington, however may solely push it into the centre of aim, the place McMenamin was ready to wrap up the win for Northern Eire.
Northern Eire are again in Euro 2024 qualifying motion on Tuesday as they host Slovenia at Windsor Park; kick-off 7.45pm.
O’Neill’s aspect then return to motion in November with two Euro 2024 qualifiers as they go to Finland on November 17 adopted by a house recreation towards Denmark on November 20.