The Northern Ireland Regions Cup team will only be playing for pride in their final game after losing their opening two matches in a mini qualifying tournament for next year’s UEFA Regions Cup finals.
Following a 2-0 defeat against Turkey in their first game on Monday, Northern Ireland were narrowly defeated 2-1 by Switzerland in Moldova yesterday.
It means Northern Ireland, represented by the Western Region for the first time, no longer have a chance of qualifying for next year’s finals, however team boss Harry McConkey insists they will be going all out to win their final game against host nation Moldova, which is being staged tomorrow.
Northern Ireland played some decent stuff against Switzerland at the Orhei Stadium and McConkey was delighted with the overall performance.
He said: “I was so pleased with the players’ response after a psychological blow in the first game. Due to the quick turnaround time I made some changes to the line-up and the side pleased me with their quick start. It’s a learning curve for these guys and here in Europe they learn that mistakes on the field will be punished clinically.
“I applaud the Swiss for their quality counter attack and their exquisite finishing. Yet like the Turkey game we didn’t roll over. We kept going and kept asking questions of the Swiss defence and we were rewarded with an excellent goal.
“Despite the scoreline it was a very brave performance which was much improved from the last. The players should take great strength from it for tomorrow’s match.
Northern Ireland started strongly against the Swiss team, from the Geneva region, and enjoyed some decent possession in the opening 15 minutes.
However, the first clearcut chance fell to Switzerland in the 17th minute and Northern Ireland keeper Kealan Mulcahy produced a sharp save to prevent his team from going a goal down.
However, the Swiss were soon in front following a slick counter attack which ended with one of their full-backs, Nicolas Lhoneux, slotting the ball home.
Northern Ireland responded well. They got into some great positions throughout the remainder of the half but were let down by a lack of quality in the final delivery and poor finishing.
The introduction of Benny McFadden and Steven Wallace - for Conal Crawford and Richard Lynch respectively - on 57 minutes gave the team fresh impetus and they continued to press strongly.
But then a great solo effort in the 77th minute saw the Swiss going two up.
Harry McConkey freshened things up again with the introduction of Dylan Forbes and soon Northern Ireland were piling on the pressure. And they were rewarded when Stephen Browne scored a great goal with a rasping shot from just inside the penalty area.
With seconds left on the clock Gareth Brown, who will miss the final game through suspension after receiving his second yellow of the tournament, had a strong penalty claim turned down. Brown fell to the ground inside the box after being pushed by a Swiss defender, however to the dismay of the Northern Ireland team the referee waved play on - and any hope of notching an equaliser had gone.
Northern Ireland line-up: Kealan Mulcahy (Dergview), Ryan Morrow (Institute), Lee Warnock (Ardstraw), Bryan McClelland (Limavady United), Steven McQuillan (Moyola Park), Richard Lynch (Dergview), Blaine Burns (Dergview), Conal Crawford (Strabane), Stephen Browne (Beragh), Kyle Friel Curran (Dergview), Gareth Brown (Institute). Subs (used): Steven Wallace (Newbuildings United), Benny McFadden (Limavady United), Dylan Forbes (Strabane). Subs (unused): Paul Wells (Limavady United), Colin Robinson (Dergview), Hugh Carlin (Limavady United), Kyle Harte (Strabane).