Northern Irish fall to defeat in Tirana
Defender Stephen Craigan should have been celebrating his first goals for Northern Ireland on his 46th international appearance. Instead his luck was out in the friendly against Albania as he saw both efforts come back off the woodwork in a 1-0 defeat in Tirana.
A makeshift Northern Ireland side were unable to get the equaliser after Ervin Skela's superb goal for the hosts in the 25th minute. It meant there was no end to a dreadful away record which has seen them produce only three victories in 22 matches.
Northern Ireland were given a chasing in the first half and were lucky to be only a goal down. Goalkeeper Maik Taylor got a taste of what was to come when called into action after two minutes to save a shot by Erjon Bogdani.
Ansi Agolli and Klodian Duro both sent shots over the bar before Taylor showed good reflexes to turn over a superb free-kick from Skela in the 21st minute. Albania got their reward four minutes later, though, as Skela beat Taylor with another free-kick after George McCartney had been hauled back for a challenge on Bogdani.
Home side dominance
Albania were well in control and Agolli dragged a shot wide in the 42nd minute with the defence all at sea. Worthington made two changes at the break, bringing on Dean Shiels and Corry Evans for Niall McGinn and O'Connor. Evans was drafted into the squad after his brother Jonny pulled out and returned to Manchester United with a knee problem.
The Northern Ireland manager praised Evans for his contribution. He said: "Young Corry Evans came on in midfield and had energy. He wanted the ball and passed well. He was neat and tidy. These are the simple things that can help change games."
The visitors almost drew level in the 61st minute when Grant McCann floated in a corner and Craigan powered in a header only to see it come back off the bar.
Kyle Lafferty came off a minute later and was replaced by Coleraine's Rory Patterson, making his debut. After Taylor had stopped a header from Albania substitute Lorik Cana, the visitors were cursing his luck their luck again in the 74th minute Craigan's shot struck the post. Patterson latched on to the rebound but saw it blocked by goalkeeper Isli Hidi and Albania went on to seal the victory.
Worthington added: "I was very impressed with Albania. They played very well first half, passed the ball well and created chances. But in the second half we gave them a little of what they gave us in first."