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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK
NI cruise to Maltese victory
Hughes provided McIlroy with the ideal start

Malta 0-3 Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland made it two out of two for their new manager Sammy McIlroy after they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Malta.

McIlroy's men never looked troubled, scoring all three of their goals in the first half of their friendly match.

Gillespie, left, was a thorn in Malta's side
Midfielder Michael Hughes struck a penalty after 12 minutes and three minutes later striker James Quinn added a second to silence the home crowd at the National Stadium in Ta'Qali.

Fellow forward David Healy, who scored a brace against Luxembourg, fired home the third four minutes before half-time to compound Malta's misery

McIlroy had a relative wealth of resources to choose from, with the exception of influential defender Gerry Taggart.

Taggart was replaced by Preston centre-half Colin Murdock who transfered his great league form on to the international stage.

Murdock, making his debut, lined up alongside the equally impressive Mark Williams.

Blackburn wing-wizard Keith Gillespie was a menace for Northern Ireland down the flank, and always looked threatening.

The home team could have taken an early lead but Gilbert Agius' through ball to striker David Carbott, was blazed well wide of Roy Carroll's goal.

Murdock was head and shoulders above the Maltese attack
Malta were made to regret the miss, when a minute later Healy was brought down by Carbott in the 18-yard box, leaving Hughes to blast McIlroy's side into the lead.

Healy was on hand again after 15 minutes when he fed Quinn, and then watched the West Brom striker weave the ball round 'keeper Ernest Barry, who duly slotted the ball into the empty goal.

Healy seemed to be on a high following his dream debut performance against Luxembourg, and got his just reward, when he collected a Hughes pass to beat Malta's Barry from just inside the area.

Malta could have clawed their way back, but they could not get past Carroll in the Northern Ireland goal.

He made a sensational fingertip save to deny substitute Noel Turmer's drive.

But Northern Ireland's defence handled Malta with a certain assurance and their attack always looked potent, a combination which is sure to please the new man, McIlroy.

Malta: Barry, Said, Chetcuti, Vella, Debono, Buttigieg, Busuttil, Cutajar, Carabott, Aguis, Nwoko. Subs: Muscat, Azzopaidi, Turner, Mifsud, N. Saliba, Vased, Magri.

Northern Ireland: Carroll, Griffin, Nolan, M. Williams, Murdock, Lomas, Lennon, Gillespie, M. Hughes, J. Quinn, Healy. Subs: Taylor, Horlock, Coote, Sonner, Johnson. Referee: . De Santos (Italy)

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