Northern Ireland’s Junior International team registered a narrow win in the second game of their 2019 UEFA Regions’ Cup qualifying campaign.
A sweet finish from Dylan Wilson was enough to ease Harry McConkey’s side to a 1-0 victory against Macedonia, represented by Amateurs FYR Macedonia, in a Regions’ Cup intermediate stage mini tournament which is currently being hosted by Northern Ireland.
The third and final game for Eastern Region, representing Northern Ireland, is on Wednesday (24 October) when they face Russia, represented by Russia (South Region - Chayka).
That will be a tough one for Northern Ireland as the Russians defeated the Macedonians 4-0 in their first game. Wednesday’s match takes place at Mourneview Park in Lurgan (19.30).
With two games played - and one to go - Portuguese side Braga are in the driving seat in the qualifying group; only the overall winner progresses to the Regions’ Cup finals next year.
A late goal earned Portugal a 1-1 draw against the Russians yesterday but they defeated Northern Ireland 2-1 in their first game and now have four points. Their final game is against the Macedonians, who have no points on the board,at Shamrock Park in Portadown (19:30) on Wednesday.
No doubt head coach Harry McConkey will want to finish the mini tournament on a high and will be keen to take care of business against the Russians in the hope the Macedonians can take something from their game against Braga.
In yesterday’s match against Amateurs FYR Macedonia, played in front of 600-plus spectators at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Northern Ireland enjoyed the bulk of possession and had 11 attempts on goal compared to the opposition’s four.
The Macedonians had the first real chance of the encounter though. Macedonia captain Nikola Risteski produced a rasping drive on 11 minutes which was superbly saved by Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jordan Williamson.
Northern Ireland had to wait until the half-hour mark to carve out a decent opening, however Adam Gray’s shot drifted wide. And minutes later Christopher Middleton had an effort on goal.
Northern Ireland began to get a grip on the game and on 35 minutes Wilson had a shot blocked. And seven minutes later he grabbed the only goal of the game. After being put through by Jordan Gibson he outpaced the Macedonian defence and neatly dinked the ball over Macedonia keeper Mirza Durakovikj into the net. It was a lovely finish.
Early in the second half Ricky Thompson had a chance to extend the lead but he missed the target, while Gray had an effort blocked. Barry McKervey then shot wide before Martin Bradley missed an opportunity.
Goalscorer Wilson was off target when well placed on 78 minutes before Macedonia’s Toni Mirchevski dragged an effort wide.
The tail end of the second half was littered with cautions as both teams battled hard for possession.
With the foul count rising there was little goalmouth action towards the end, although Joe Reid missed a chance for Northern Ireland on 88 minutes.
Deep into injury time Risteski was given his marching orders when he received a second yellow card for a foul on Wilson but by that stage it was too late for the Macedonians to get anything from the game.
Northern Ireland: Jordan Williamson, Christopher Middleton, William Armstrong, Scott McMillan (captain), Barry McKervey, Dylan Wilson, Jordan Gibson, Richard Thompson, Adam Gray, Joseph Reid, Martin Bradley. Substitutes: (used) Christopher Watts, Lewis Irwin; (not used) Dean Smyth, James Patterson, Aaron Rogers, Adam McDonald, Terence McGrath.
Macedonia: Mirza Durakovikj, Silvio Angelovski, Armend Aliu, Nikola Risteski (captain), Toni Mirchevski, Robert Kocev, Kristijan Nikolovski, Antonio Lukarov, Bojan Rajkov, Marjan Ristovski, Antonio Bosheski. Substitutes (used) Damjan Ivanovski, Ivan Galevski, Lazar Peev; (not used) Borche Kartov, Antonio Ilievski.