Lithuania 1-4 Northern Ireland: Under-pressure visitors deliver emphatic away victory

Conor Washington and Shayne Lavery were excellent front-runners for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland won in Lithuania by 4-1 to maintain their World Cup qualification hopes.

Daniel Ballard opened the scoring, and Conor Washington scored a penalty. Rolandas Baravykas then pulled one back for the hosts.

Bailey Peacock–Farrell saved an Arvydas Novikovas spot kick, while Shayne Lavery restored the two-goal margin for the under-strength visitors.

Paddy McNair scored the second Northern Ireland penalty.

Ian Baraclough's team won in Group C, their first victory in 90 competitive minutes. The manager had started the campaign with a 2-0 loss away from Italy and then a disappointing draw at home to Bulgaria.

They are currently third in the table, six behind leaders Italy. However, they know that a win at Windsor Park against Switzerland on Wednesday night would put them in second place, one point ahead of Switzerland.

Northern Ireland's win was made even more impressive by the fact that they traveled to Vilnius without Jonny Evans or Stuart Dallas, who are both Premier League stars. Josh Magennis, Corry Evans, and George Saville were also absent.

After being suspended for Switzerland, Saville will again be available. Before that, they have a friendly with Estonia. McNair, however, added another player to the list of players not available by booking McNair for the Belfast match.

Northern Ireland is determined to respond strongly

Baraclough's side was thrilled with Peacock Farrell's penalty save.

Northern Ireland was under immense pressure with their qualification hopes in jeopardy. However, the players responded brilliantly and recorded an emphatic victory in the end.

Baraclough's team made a slow start and gave the hosts the chance to score. Ballard, who scored his first international goal in the 20th minute, scored a superb low Washington cross after Steven Davis played the Charlton striker down the left.

Washington doubled NI’s lead just seven minutes after the break, scoring a penalty for Michael Smith's shot on a surge run that was stopped by Linas Megelaitis.

It was the start of a fast 15-minute period, with Baravykas hitting a powerful angled drive from the distance to win the match. Baraclough will have no doubt been afraid for his life when McNair brought Justas Lasickas into the box following a Craig Cathcart error.

Peacock Farrell, Sheffield Wednesday's keeper, dived to his left to save Novikovas from a penalty. This is something he has done many times since his international debut in 2018.

Livewire Lavery did his best to bring back Northern Ireland's two goals margin. He scored his first senior international goal in 67 minutes.

McNair forgot about his suspension and completed the scoring in eight minutes. He scored from the penalty spot, after Davis had been upended.

As the supporting cast takes center stage, Lavery is brought to the forefront

Lavery, an ex-forward for Everton, left Linfield to join Blackpool in May

The match was huge in terms of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualification hopes. However, another narrative that dominated the build up to the game was their inability to find key players or regular starters.

The pull-out list, which began last week with Jonny Evans, ended with Dallas the day before the match. It must have been a test for Baraclough's always positive demeanour. But he insists that the absentees provided an opportunity for the squad players to step up.

Lavery embodied the spirit of his former NI Under-21 boss with a performance that was full of pace and perspiration. This resulted in a well-deserved goal for Lavery, a former Linfield man who made a great start to life in Blackpool.

He missed a great chance from a Jamal Lewis cross, then Jordan Thompson played in a beautiful lofted pass just before the break. However, he missed his target by missing his left-foot shot.

Although it was easy for him to lose his head, he knew that Washington is his friend and was well placed to help him reach his goal.

It is doubtful that the 22-year-old will get much of a chance to add to his goal tally in Sunday's friendly against Estonia, but he - along with Thompson and the once-again-impressive Ali McCann - will be hoping for another start as 16,000 supporters return to Windsor Park for the Switzerland encounter.