Nigel Worthington's reign as full-time Northern Ireland manager got off to a losing start as Bulgaria edged a tight friendly at Windsor Park.
But while the visitors were the superior side, Worthington found some cause for encouragement. "Overall it was a good exercise, a lot of good stuff, a lot of positives to take away from it, but there are little bits we need to work on," he said. "I thought in the last 25 minutes we really took the game to them."
The Irish defence had frustrated the visitors early on but Bulgaria broke the deadlock after 38 minutes when the Manchester City midfielder Martin Petrov skipped clear on the left and saw his drive across goal deflected in by Jonny Evans.
The visitors continued to make most of the running after the break, while the best Irish chances fell to David Healy. But though he had a free-kick deflected over late on, the province's record scorer was unable to find a breakthrough.
Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Taylor (Mannus, 83); McAuley, McCartney (Baird, h-t), Hughes, Evans (Craigan, h-t); Clingan, Gillespie (Thompson, 78), Johnson (Davis, h-t), Lafferty (Paterson, 60); Healy, Brunt. Substitutes not used: Sproule, Webb, Thompson, Robinson.
Bulgaria (4-4-2): Petkov (Ivankov, h-t); Angelov, Venkov (Zanev, 73), Tunchev (Karaslavov, 66), Tomasic; Milanov, M Petrov, Yanchev (Dimitrov, h-t), Georgiev; Berbatov (Domovchiyski, 82), Lazarov (Popov, 66). Substitutes not used: Ivankov, Karaslavov, Dimitrov, Popov, Domovchiyski.
Referee: D McDonald (Scotland).