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Monday 26 Mar 2018
U21s in buoyant mood despite defeat to Spain

Northern Ireland’s U21s will be going all out for victory in their game against Iceland in Coleraine this evening.

Ian Baraclough’s squad are determined to cement second spot in UEFA U21 Championship qualifying group 2 – and retain an outside chance of reaching a play-off for a spot at the U21 Euros next year. 

Northern Ireland currently have 10 points from six games, while Slovakia are in third with nine points from six games and Iceland are in fourth with seven from five matches. 

Despite losing 5-3 to runaway group leaders Spain in Portadown on Thursday, both the boss and the players took lots of positives from the game.

For starters they scored three times against a classy Spanish side peppered with La Liga stars. They also produced some neat football and carved out several chances.

And they know they need a win against Iceland to put some daylight between themselves and their nearest rivals.

QPR winger Paul Smyth, who scored on his senior international debut against South Korea on Saturday, will be missing from Ian Baraclough’s squad for the game in Coleraine due to suspension.

However, the exciting Everton striker Shayne Lavery, who along with Smyth was called up to the senior squad by Michael O’Neill for the game against the South Koreans but did not get game time, will be in action this evening at The Showgrounds (7.30 start, free admission).

Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte, who had a great game against the Spanish, is also expected to be available. He limped off the pitch in Portadown due to cramp but has made a full recovery 

Coleraine FC supporters will be hoping Bannsiders midfielder Ciaron Harkin and striker Jamie McGonigle will get some game time on home soil. Both were unused subs against Spain. 

However, it looks likely Ian Baraclough’s starting 11 will be along similar lines to the one that began the game against Spain.

Northern Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: Conor Mitchell (Burnley), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds United)

Cameron Dummigan (Oldham Athletic), Conor McDermott (Derry City), Bobby Burns (Glenavon), Liam Donnelly (Hartlepool United), Ryan Johnson (Nuneaton Town – on loan from Stevenage), Ben Hall (Notts County – on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), Chris Paul (QPR) 

Midfielders: Dale Gorman (Stevenage), Jordan Thompson (Livingston – on loan from Rangers), Kyle McClean (St Johnstone), Mark Sykes (Glenavon), Ciaron Harkin (Coleraine), Jamie McDonagh (Derry City)

Forwards: Gavin Whyte (Crusaders), Jamie McGonigle (Coleraine), Shayne Lavery (Everton), Ben Kennedy (Stevenage), David Parkhouse (Sheffield United), Rory Holden (Bristol City).