STEVE LOMAS gave Lawrie McMenemy a winning start in Belfast last night to his reign as Northern Ireland manager. The Irish captain struck after 51 minutes at a rain-soaked Windsor Park for only his second international goal to settle the friendly against Slovakia.
Michael Hughes almost gave McMenemy a dream start after just four minutes when he grazed the woodwork. After that, the Slovakians appeared to take control. Middlesbrough's Vladimir Kinder had a shot deflected for a corner, and from the set-piece Peter Dubovsky touched Marek Spilar's shot over the bar. Alan Fettis then let Lubomir Moravcik's curling free-kick slip through his arms, but luckily it went behind.
Dubovsky again figured on 15 minutes, but lifted the ball over the goal. Kinder then played in Samuel Slovak only for Fettis to block his shot. Keith Gillespie responded, sending over a cross which Steve Morrow knocked past the post.
The visitors kept up the pressure after the break until Lomas fired the home side ahead against the run of play with a left-footed effort into the bottom corner of the net.
Northern Ireland nearly added a second on 78 minutes when Michael Hughes' drive came off the post and James Quinn hit the rebound wide.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Fettis (Blackburn), Jenkins (Chester), A Hughes (Newcastle), Lomas (West Ham), Hill (Northampton), Morrow (Queen's Park Rangers), Gillespie (Newcastle), Lennon (Leicester), Dowie (Queen's Park Rangers), M Hughes (Wimbledon), Quinn (West Bromwich). Substitutes: O'Boyle (St Johnstone) for Quinn, 82; McCarthy (Birmingham) for Gillespie, 89.
SLOVAKIA: Vencel (Strasbourg); Tittel (Spartak Trnava), Slovak (Tenerife), Timko (Banik Ostrava), Zeman (Vitesse Arnhem), Kinder (Middlesbrough), Dubovsky (Real Oviedo), Spilar (Kosice), Moravcik (Bastia), Pinte (Inter Bratislava), Majoros (Petra Drnovice). Substitutes: Nemeth (Kosice) for Pinte, h-t; Balis (Spartak Trnava) for Moravcik, 68; Sovic (Kosice) for Slovak, 68; Zatek (Banik Ostrava) for Timko, 79.
Referee: A Howells (Wales).