Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington admitted he made the decision weeks ago to drop record scorer David Healy.
Instead Worthington opted to pair Kyle Lafferty and Warren Feeney in attack in the 1-0 defeat over Serbia as Healy had failed to find the target in six matches - although he eventually came off the bench in the second half.
Explaining his decision to axe the Sunderland striker, Worthington said: "I made it before we met up. For David, like others, you have got to work hard to get in the first team or work hard to try and get first-team football elsewhere."
He added: "It is the first time in many months we've had Kyle and Warren in the squad at the same time and an ideal opportunity in a friendly to start with them.
"I thought they worked well together. When David came on I thought he did well. It was a useful exercise.
"David was fine with my decision. I just told him I was going to start with two other strikers. It is a simple thing and I have been harping on about it for 18 months."
Celtic midfielder Niall McGinn marked his first start in Belfast by being named man of the match.
Worthington thought it was appropriate and said: "Niall is refreshing. He is one of those players who excites.
"He is direct in his approach, which is what I like. He is coming along nicely and is learning all the time.
"He is a different option for us and not something we have had for a while. He has great pace and is a little devil."
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