Sproule the hero for North

Northern Ireland 1 Estonia 0

Ivan Sproule has always had lightening pace and now his game in Scotland has taken on a new dimension.

He has chipped in with some crucial goals for high-flying Hibernian, the Scottish Cup semi-finalists.

The 25-year-old got off the mark for Northern Ireland in this his third international appearance.

The Hibs star got on the end of James Quinn’s header to fire a shot into the corner beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Mart Poom after just two minutes of this friendly.

Chris Brunt should have added a second in the seventh minute only to screw a shot wide from a good position.

Northern Ireland kept up the pressure and Steve Davis released David Healy in the area. However, his effort was deflected to safety.

Quinn had the ball in the net after 16 minutes only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.

There was a moment of danger for Northern Ireland a minute later when Andrei Sidorenkov broke clear but goalkeeper Maik Taylor booted his shot to safety.

Taylor showed good reflexes to block shots from Enar Jaager and Andrei Stepanov in quick succession.

Brunt was beginning to make an impact. He rattled in a shot after 29 minutes that was blocked by Urmas Rooba.

A minute later he tried to curl a shot into the corner only for the ball to drift narrowly wide of the post.

Sproule was causing Estonia problems with his quick feet and his quick brain.

However, he snatched at his shot in the 34th minute and saw the ball sail over the bar.

This was a good spell for the home side against decent opposition. Estonia lie in 77th place in the world rankings - 25 places above Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez made two changes at half-time and handed a debut to Scotland-born Brian McLean. Steve Jones was also included with Stephen Craigan and Sproule going off.

The probability was that Sproule was being rested given that Hibs have a busy fixture schedule and a Scottish Cup semi-final to look forward to.

Substitute Steve Jones should have added a second in the 55th minute, but scooped a shot over from close range.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Taylor, Duff, Craigan (McLean 46), McAuley, Capaldi, Sproule (Jones 46), Davis (Elliott 68), Baird, Brunt (McCann 68), Quinn (Thompson 59), Healy (Feeney 59).

ESTONIA: Poom, Jaager, Stepanov, Piiroja, Rooba, Rahn (Reim 78), Teever (Kuresoo 73), Dmitrijev, Neemelo, Lindpere (Oper 54), Sidorenkov (Ahjupera 84).

Referee: Pieter Vink (Holland).

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