Release Date: 25/07/2008
Author: By Natalie McCullough
TONIGHT'S result against Belarus served an indication of just how far Alfie Wylie’s side have progressed since the opening game of the tournament, against England in May 2007.
Previous results in the campaign failed to deter the home side, whose grit and determination was evident from kick off.
The first realistic chance for the Northern Ireland Ladies came in the 5th minute, thanks to a Kimberley Turner assault on the Belarus defence.
Unfortunately for Turner, the ball was swept from her feet by goalkeeper Svetlana Novikova. A series of chances followed Turner's effort, the fifth resulting in a blistering goal for Northern Ireland captain Stacey Hall on the 38th minute.
Originating from a Kimberley Turner corner, the ball was headed into the box by Demi Vance, only to be punched away by the keeper. Hall just so happened to be on the receiving end of Novikova's clearance and headed home, for this, Northern Ireland's second goal of the championship.
The Ladies not only dominated the majority of possession in the first half but managed to retain it in the second, with solid defending from Una Harkin and Julie Nelson when put under pressure.
Any opportunity at goal for the Belarus side was to prove a dubious task against the might of Emma Higgins, who fought to prevent the equaliser. Unfortunately for the home side, Belarus equalised in the 84th minute with a goal from Maryna Lis.
With a further 3 minutes stoppage time, the 300 strong crowd in Newry's Showground's got behind the local Ladies, hoping for a late goal from the home side to win the match. This wasn't to be and on the 93rd minute, the game finished in a 1-1 draw.
Alfie Wylie, Women's National Coach said tonight, "The highlight of the campaign has definitely been the improvements that all the girls have shown, their fitness, organisation, belief and their desire for the game. They have done me, their families and themselves proud. Belarus beat us by five the last time we played them but we turned it all around tonight, having had many knocks along the way.
"The girls have proved critics wrong tonight and showed that we can compete at a top international level along with the best and I believe we had every chance to win tonight."
Alfie also spoke of the strength and depth of women's football in Northern Ireland. " This experience can only be good for future development of women's football, this is only the start and we as a team can only build on this. We have brilliant U17, U19 and Senior team and we have everything to look forward to in the future."
Northern Ireland: Emma Higgins, Lyndsay Corry, Kellie Bailie, Julie Nelson, Una Harkin, Nadene Caldwell, Kimberley Turner, Stacey Hall (Capt), Demi Vance, Sara Booth, Cathy Hyndman, Kirsty Eddis (not used), Danielle McDowell (not used) Melissa McCrdy (not used), Claire Carson (not used)
Belarus: Svetlana Novikova, Nina Okhrimuk, Alina Vasilyeva, Nikalayeva Iryna, Oksana Shpak, Svetlana Astasheva, Natalya Ryzhevich (Capt), Alesya Baranova, Tatsiana Kiose, Maryna Lis, Olga Manzhuk, Katsiaryna Aukhimovich, Olga Rodko, Aliaksandra Valko, Inna Batianovskaya, Elena Buzinova, Katsiaryna Miklashevich, Anastaisya Shaiko
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