26/04/1989 Valletta Malta 2-0 Colin Clarke, Michael O’Neill
Tommy Wright, Gary Fleming, Nigel Worthington (Anton Rogan), Mal Donaghy, John McClelland, Danny Wilson, David McCreery, Lawrie Sanchez (Michael O’Neill), Colin Clarke, Jimmy Quinn, Kevin Wilson
This was Malta’s thirtieth match in succession without a win in World Cup Qualifiers. Malta did however earn a credible 1-1 draw against Hungary in their previous qualifier in Budapest.
Northern Ireland were nearly embarrassed as tends to happen to them against Europe’s minnows as they had the majority of play in the first half. Malta almost took the lead only three minutes into the match when Raymond Vella (Hamrun Spartans) struck the post.
Northern Ireland goalkeeper Tommy Wright (Newcastle United) had to pull off two good saves from Maltese striker Martin Gregory (Floriana). Another save by Wright kept Northern Ireland in the game as he saved a low and hard shot by Carmel Busuttil (Racing Club Genk).
In the second half Northern Ireland played with a strong wind at their back. They made good use of this by hitting long balls to the forward pair of Jimmy Quinn (Bradford City) and Colin Clarke (Southampton), which had the Maltese defence all over the place.
An error by defender Joe Galea (Rabat Ajax) presented Clarke with a chance on 55 minutes which he duly took to put Northern Ireland in front.
Northern Ireland’s second came from substitute Michael O’Neill on 73 minutes (Newcastle United) who had replaced Lawrie Sanchez (Wimbledon) when he shot past goalkeeper David Cluett (Floriana).