Northern Ireland’s U21s earned another point in their Euros campaign against a dogged Iceland U21s in Coleraine this evening.
Ian Baraclough’s side remain in second spot in UEFA U21 Championship qualifying group 2 following a scoreless draw at The Showgrounds – but they had enough chances to take all three points.
Northern Ireland now have 11 points from six games, while Iceland remain in fourth with eight from six matches.
Iceland deployed a blanket defence but the boys in green, in a 3-4-1-2 formation, pressed and probed throughout the game.
The visitors started brightly though and Northern Ireland defender Ben Hall put in a great block early on before keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell collected well at the feet of Iceland’s Mikael Anderson after he had made a penetrating run into the box.
The home side’s first real chance came when Jamie McDonagh forced a good save from Iceland keeper Sindri Olafsson with a rasping drive. Moments later Ben Kennedy headed just wide when well placed.
On 20 minutes Iceland captain Albert Gudmundsson smashed an excellent cross across the six-yard box but it evaded everyone.
With Jordan Thompson and Dale Gorman pulling the strings in the middle of the park Northern Ireland started to get a stranglehold on the game. On 27 minutes Gavin Whyte cleverly nipped in behind the visitors’ defence but his weak effort was cleared to safety.
In the 34th minute Whyte was causing havoc again but his effort was blocked by Olafsson and minutes later he saved another low shot from Whyte.
As Northern Ireland pushed forward McDonagh headed just over the top from a Kennedy cross and then Kennedy got on the end of a sweeping move but he could not get a decent connection.
Six minutes into the second period the busy Shayne Lavery forced a corner. Thompson’s delivery was cleared to Ryan Johnson and his stinging drive was cleared off the line.
Moments later Lavery’s flick header from another Thompson corner drifted just wide of the far post.
Then Kennedy headed over from six yards after getting on the end of another decent Thompson delivery from a corner.
Peacock-Farrell saved well from Gudmundsson as Iceland produced their first meaningful attack of the second half.
Hall cleared well from a long throw before Iceland’s Ottar Karlsson headed just wide. Shortly after there was a huge let-off for Northern Ireland when Iceland broke clear. However, Tryggvi Haraldsson shot wide when he should have scored.
Northern Ireland continued to press in front of the 1088 spectators but could not find a way through.
On 71 minutes Thompson had a decent effort blocked and 10 minutes later Kennedy produced a great left foot curler which was pushed away by the Iceland keeper.
The final action of the game saw Peacock-Farrell save a tame header on the stroke of full-time.
Northern Ireland: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jamie McDonagh, Ben Hall, Liam Donnelly (captain), Ryan Johnson, Jordan Thompson, Bobby Burns, Dale Gorman, Gavin Whyte, Shayne Lavery, Ben Kennedy. Substitutes: Conor Mitchell, Conor McDermott, Ciaron Harkin, Mark Sykes (for Kennedy 82’), Jamie McGonigle, David Parkhouse, Rory Holden.
Iceland: Sindri Olafsson, Felix Orn Fridriksson, Hans Viktor Gudmundsson, Alfons Sampsted, Samuel Fridjonsson, Julius Magnusson, Tryggvi Hrafn Haraldsson, Albert Gudmundsson, Ottar Magnus Karlsson, Mikael Anderson, Torfi Gunnarsson. Substitutes: Aron Snaer Fridriksson, Aron Mar Brynjarsson, Orri Svein Stefansson, Gretar Snaer Gunnarsson, Stefan Alexander Ljubicic (used), Gudmundur Andri Tryggvason (used), Amor Breki Asthorsson.