Winger Jordan Jones hopes to have repaid Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough by scoring his first international goal in Sunday’s 3-0 friendly win over Malta in Austria.
Jones was recalled to the squad last week, having been absent since breaching Covid regulations with Rangers last November.
He missed the finale of the Euro 2020 qualifiers and the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
“I’m over the moon,” said Jones.
“To get three goals as a team was a real positive and on a personal level I’m delighted to get my first goal for my country. Hopefully it’s the first of many.”
Jones’ breach of Covid regulations contributed to the 26-year-old spending the second half of the season out on loan to Sunderland.
His second-minute strike in Klagenfurt should keep him in the manager’s thoughts going forward.
“I’ve really missed coming away with the boys and I’ve missed playing for Northern Ireland, but thankfully the gaffer has put me back in the squad and hopefully I’ve repaid him,” added Jones.
‘A winning environment and mentality’
After Jones capitalised on a mistake from Ferdinando Apap to put Northern Ireland ahead, second-half strikes from Gavin Whyte and Ali McCann, the latter also a first international goal for the St Johnstone midfielder, put the result beyond doubt.
Malta had threatened after Josh Magennis missed a penalty midway through the first half, but ultimately a side ranked 175th in the world and short of match fitness proved no match.
It meant Baraclough could finally celebrate his first win in charge inside 90 minutes at the 12th attempt, while having also seen his side score more than one goal in a game for the first time.
The opposition will get significantly tougher on Thursday when they head to Dnipro to face Euro 2020-bound Ukraine, but there is plenty to build on.
“The most important thing was we got a win because I think it has been long overdue,” said Jones.
“We’ve got it now and we feel it’s time to kick on and try to get as many wins as possible.
“Even if it’s in friendlies, it still creates a winning environment and mentality and that’s what we need going forward.”