Northern Ireland U21s had to settle for a draw against Romania’s U21s in a Euro qualifier at Ballymena Showgrounds this evening.
After two draws and two defeats in group games before today’s encounter, Ian Baraclough’s side really needed a win to kick-start their U21 Euros 2021 qualification campaign.
However, despite creating chances throughout the match, they could only manage a scoreless draw against the rugged Romanians.
The U21s, who drew 1-1 with Hungary U21s in a challenge match in Fermanagh last Thursday, had to withstand some early pressure from the visitors, with both Adrian Petre and Dennis Man coming close.
Northern Ireland, who lost out to Romania 3-0 in the reverse fixture in Qualifying Group 8 last month, settled down after that and captain Eoin Toal had an effort blocked before keeper Nathan Gartside saved a shot from midfielder Valentin Mihaila and a shot from OlimpiuMorutan.
The home side pushed forward after the break with Ali McCann missing the target before Jake Dunwoody forced a good save out of Romania keeper Andrei Vlad.
Both Man and Mihaila then wasted opportunities for the visitors before Caolan Boyd Munce smashed a free-kick wide of the upright.
Gartside produced a good stop form Man’s attempt on 77 minutes and then denied midfielder Darius Olaru.
Two minutes later Romanian defender Andrei Chindriș was sent off after being shown a second yellow card.
The U21s then poured forward in search of a goal and Boyd Munce had an effort saved.
The Romanians, however, stood firm and tried to hit Northern Ireland on the counter-attack.
Gartside saved well from Andrei Ciobanu before David Parkhouse was presented with a great opportunity to seal all three points. However, he screwed his effort wide.
And Romania almost snatched it right at the death when Petre found himself in the clear. Again, though, he put his shot wide.
Northern Ireland had seven attempts on goal compared to Romania’s 14 and in the end a draw was a fair result.
Northern Ireland U21s v Romania U21s: Nathan Gartside, Eoin Toal, Bobby Burns, Kofi Balmer, Caolan Marron, Jake Dunwoody, Alfie McCalmont, Caolan Boyd Munce, David Parkhouse, Shea Gordon, Alistair McCann. Substitutes: (used) Cameron Palmer, Ethan Galbraith, Lewis Thompson; (not used) Liam Hughes, Jack Scott, Sean Graham, Chris Gallagher, Paul O’Neill, Harry Robinson.