THE footballing gods often work strange ways, just ask Stevenage striker Jamie Reid.

At the age of 29, he scored just seven minutes into his Northern Ireland debut last week, having only linked up with his new team-mates two days prior.

That Michael O’Neill had to draft him into the squad owed much to the unavailability of his regular starter, Dion Charles, who had controversially been called up despite having missed the previous eight club matches with a knee injury.

Reid’s goal against Romania ended a seven-game scoring drought, a rare occurrence in a season where he had bagged 21 goals in all competitions to that point – comfortably the best haul at EFL level in his career.

Stevenage’s talisman took Charles’s place once more as ex-Wanderers loanee Conor Bradley notched a winner against Scotland on Tuesday night, and now arrives back at his club brimming with confidence and hoping to one-up his international colleague Eoin Toal when the two sides meet at the Lamex Stadium on Good Friday.

Qualifying through his Belfast-born grandmother, Reid thought his chance to wear the green of Northern Ireland had passed despite having played at Under-21s level.

He said: “Five years ago I was playing in the Conference South for Torquay and I probably thought this day was gone but I got my head down and worked hard and every time I got the chance to play I tried to express myself and it has got me to where I am now.

“I don’t want this to be the end of my international career. I want to kick on. It will be hard because there are good players here and good competition but I’m looking forward to it and my next goal is to be part of the next team.

“To score is an unbelievably proud moment for me and my family. My grandmother would be so happy right now. I’m just buzzing.”

Reid’s last club goal was against Port Vale on February 10, and he is now level pegging with Barnsley’s Devante Cole in joint-second spot in League One’s Golden Boot race with 17. Charlton Athletic’s Alfie May holds a comfortable lead on 21.

He has already shown first-hand to Bolton that he can be a handful, scoring twice for Stevenage in their 3-2 defeat at the Toughsheet Stadium back in October, a day on which Ian Evatt could not call on the services of his own defensive talisman, Ricardo Santos.

Whether Reid is joined on the matchday team-sheet by the man he replaced in the two friendlies remains to be seen, Charles still some way off full fitness but able to take part in plenty of the activities on international duty.

Reid is one of Steve Evans’s many success stories in Hertfordshire, and his goals have helped the club push from the bottom reaches of League Two, to promotion, and then an unlikely play-off challenge in League One.

“We joined the Football Club and he wasn’t making the matchday squad,” Evans said. “Perhaps Jamie, by his own admission, had lost focus a bit because the previous manager or two weren’t selecting him as a big player.

“We believed in him and put him straight in. I remembered him from his days at Torquay United and I was a big admirer. He’s been nothing short of absolutely outstanding for us.”

Evans cut his footballing teeth at Wanderers, turning down the chance to sign for Celtic as a 15-year-old to move to Lancashire. He never made the first team grade under Ian Greaves at Burnden Park but has rarely missed an opportunity to acknowledge his affection for the club whenever he has crossed paths since.

He tipped Ian Evatt’s side to get automatic promotion after they had dismantled Oxford United with him as a guest on Sky Sports a few weeks ago – but also warned that his Stevenage side would win the play-offs if they secured a spot in the top six.

Both of the Scot’s predictions can still come true, of course, but for Wanderers the job of hunting down second-placed Derby County would be made difficult in the extreme if they leave with anything less than three points on Friday evening.