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Ian Baraclough felt his Northern Ireland side deserved to win by more after they needed an own goal to end their long wait for a Windsor Park victory by edging out Lithuania 1-0 on Friday night.
Northern Ireland bossed possession and had two strikes ruled out before the break in a dominant first half, but could not add to Benas Satkus’ 18th-minute own goal as they registered a first competitive home win since the victory over Bulgaria in March 2019.
“It’s pleasing, of course it is,” said Baraclough, who got his own first home victory in charge. “In the first half we were excellent, the tempo of our game and our passing, moving the ball wide and getting it into the box.
“It was as good as we’ve been in a first half and it was disappointing not to come in with more.”
Moments after Satkus had inadvertently turned in Paddy McNair’s corner, Ali McCann had a goal disallowed due to Josh Magennis being in an offside position in front of the goalkeeper, while the Hull striker had his own header chalked off due to a foul on Ovidijus Verbickas.
“The two that were disallowed I thought were very harsh,” Baraclough added. “You can maybe see why with the one where Ali put it in the corner and Josh moved out of the way, but the goalkeeper had already dived. Josh was offside but he never touched it.
“The second one from the corner, the guy has done down very easily.”
Asked if the victory was more comfortable than the score suggested, Baraclough added: “I think so. From where I was stood we created more, we played positive football.”
But Northern Ireland could not keep up that level of dominance after the break, a concerning trend a month after they lost a 1-0 lead in a 2-1 defeat away to Bulgaria, where the second-half performance brought much criticism.
“You see the opposition probably went a bit more gung-ho after the break,” said Baraclough, who must now prepare to face European champions Italy in the final qualifier on Monday.
“They take more chances, they maybe change formation a little bit. Can we react to that? Can we be better with that?
“We couldn’t get our first pass away or switch play as much as we did. I have to look back at that. It’s something we’ve got to find consistency with. When I first took over we struggled to make a start in games and then came on strong in the second half so we’ve got to make sure we put the two together.”
With the game threatening to peter out as Lithuania got more joy, Baraclough gave the Windsor Park fans what so many of them wanted to see as 17-year-old striker Dale Taylor came on to make his debut with 13 minutes remaining.
The former Linfield player, now with Nottingham Forest, was straight into the action and got himself into a shooting position before winning his side a corner.
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) November 12, 2021
“It was unbelievable,” Taylor said of the experience. “Just to get on was incredible, and when I came on the atmosphere they gave me was incredible.
“(Baraclough) just said to me to go out and play my own game, work hard for the team and don’t be scared to do anything, don’t be scared to play your own game.
“I was going to pull the trigger and hit a shot. There’s a bit of regret I didn’t but happily I won a corner for us…I thought about it, I don’t know why I didn’t (shoot). I should have done.”