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Tuesday 05 Sep 2017
Conor Mitchell shines for Northern Ireland in Slovakia loss

Ian Baraclough's under 21 side suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Slovakia this evening as following a late second half winner from the home side.

The winner came on 61 minutes as Laszlo Benes finished well past Conor Mitchell in the Northern Ireland goal to give the home side all three points.

Slovakia started the match well as they looked to gain an early advantage over Baraclough's team but were unable to break down the Northern Ireland defence marshalled by penalty hero Liam Donnelly. 

It didn't take Northern Ireland long to have their first clear cut chance of the match on three minutes as Paul Smyth rounded the Slovakian keeper on the edge of the box but put his effort over the bar from a tight angle.

A half chance fell to Jordan Thompson as his strike from outside the box fizzed past the post after he did well to capitalise on a loose ball in the Slovakia defence.

Northern Ireland had the ball in the net mid way through the half from a corner, but the referee had blown the whistle for a foul on the home keeper. 

Slovakia had a great chance to go ahead but for Conor Mitchell's superb reflex save from pointblank range following a Slovak corner.

Four minutes later Mitchell was at it again as he tipped David Hancko shot from outside the box onto the crossbar.

Slovakia piled on the pressure on the half hour mark as midfielders David Hancko and Robert Polievka's crossed were dealt with well by Ben Hall and Donnelly at the back.

Just before half-time a Slovakia attack started by captain Jakub Hromada ended up at the feet of defender Denis Vavro who hit a thunderous strike just wide of the Northern Ireland goal.

The second half started well for the home side as a fine free kick from Lukas Cmelik landed on the head of Michal Sipi’ak only to be saved once again by Mitchell. 

The pressure continued as minutes later a similar scenario brought another flying save from Mitchell.

Slovakia broke the deadlock from a sweeping counter attack as Mitchell was finally beaten by a low strike into the corner from Laszlo Benes just after the hour mark.

Northern Ireland's best chance of the half fell to substitute Shea Gordon whose header glanced just over the bar from a Jordan Thompson cross. 

In the last ten minutes Northern Ireland piled bodies forward but were unable to make the breakthrough as the Slovakia defence held strong.

The first defeat of the campaign means Baraclough's side have taken six points from a possible nine so far in the Championship and sit second in Group 2 behind the unbeaten Slovakians. 

Northern Ireland's next match is at home to Estonia on 10 October.

Northern Ireland: Conor Mitchell (GK), Cameron Dummigan, Liam Donnelly (C) A, Ryan Johnson, Paul Smyth (McDonagh 78'), Dale Gorman (Gordon 57'), Ben Kennedy, Jordan Thompson, Ben Hall, Ben Doherty (Parkhouse 78'), Charlie Owens

Subs: Conor Hazard (GK), Conor McDermott, Shea Gordon, Jamie McGonigle, Jamie McDonagh, David Parkhouse, Kyle McClean