Quinn hits back with equaliser

Northern Ireland 1 Serbia & Montenegro 1
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The Independent Football

Lawrie Sanchez saw his Northern Ireland side secure a creditable draw against Serbia & Montenegro in a friendly tonight in Belfast. James Quinn marked his comeback by equalising after Veljko Paunovic had opened the scoring.

Lawrie Sanchez saw his Northern Ireland side secure a creditable draw against Serbia & Montenegro in a friendly tonight in Belfast. James Quinn marked his comeback by equalising after Veljko Paunovic had opened the scoring.

Serbia's coach, Ilija Petkovic, was so keen to end a run of seven successive defeats in friendlies that he called up his son Dusan. Northern Ireland, who have begun to recover from their own appalling run, were still without a home win since September 2001.

However, they got off to the worst possible start when Serbia took the lead after seven minutes. Paunovic latched on to a good ball from Zvonimir Vukic to give the home goalkeeper and captain Maik Taylor no chance.

Just moments earlier Ivica Dragutinovic had seen his effort from an acute angle go beyond Taylor's near post. Meteja Kezman rattled a shot into Taylor's body before Northern Ireland equalised in the 18th minute.

James Quinn scored at the back post following a cross from David Healy. It was a heartening response from Northern Ireland, who have now managed to score in their last three matches. Healy and Quinn found chances limited, although Healy could have added a second before the break but shot straight at Zoran Banovic.

Sanchez made four changes at half-time. Manchester United's Roy Carroll took over from Taylor between the posts and Gary Hamilton, Paul McVeigh and Steve Jones were also called into the action as the Wimbledon defender Mark Williams took the captain's armband.

The action was punctuated when a mêlée broke out in the 63rd minute after Albert Nadj took the legs from Quinn. Jeff Whitley was unhappy at the challenge and shoved the Serbian before Williams waded in.

Northern Ireland had clear claims for a penalty turned down in the 83rd minute when Jones was chopped down by Goran Gavrancic. Then Hamilton saw a goal-bound shot cleared by the legs of Banovic in stoppage time.

NORTHERN IRELAND (4-4-2): Taylor (Carroll, h-t); Baird, Craigan, Williams, Capaldi; Gillespie (Jones, h-t), Doherty (Hughes, 78), Whitley (Sonner, 78), Mulryne (McVeigh, h-t); Healy (Hamilton, h-t), Quinn (Smith, 78). Substitutes not used: Kennedy, Murdock, Sonner.

SERBIA & MONTENEGRO (4-4-2): Banovic; Cirkovic (Markoski, 83), Dragutinovic (Vitakic, h-t), Gavrancic, Nadj; Kezman, Paunovic (Kolakovic, 69), Vukic, Trobok (Ivic, h-t); Petkovic, Krstajic. Substitutes not used: Dudic, Djordjevic, Miroslavjevic, Kovacevic.

Referee: C Richards (Wales).

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