Northern Ireland U19s registered a 2-1 victory against Kazakhstan U19s in their final game in the qualifying round for U19 Euro 2022.
Goals from substitutes Ciaran McGuckin and Oisin Conaty gave them a deserved win in their third match in the Group 13 four-team mini tournament hosted by Czech Republic.
Although the U19s cannot qualify for the elite round of the U19 Euro Slovakia 2022 qualifiers next spring, after losing against the Danes (2-0) and the Czechs (2-0) in their first two matches, today’s result was a fine way to round off the campaign.
Northern Ireland U19s manager Gerard Lyttle said: "I'm delighted with our first win. I felt in our previous game we deserved something. Before the game we lost two key players in Shea Charles and Michael Forbes through suspension so we had to readjust and change to a formation that we hadn't played. The boys did really well with that.
"We've created a lot of chances over the space of two games and today, again, we've created a lot of opportunities. We've hit the crossbar and we've also had a goal disallowed and their 'keeper has had to make six or seven saves.
"The boys who have come on have made a real impact. Conaty of Portadown was excellent and McGuckin came on and produced a really calm finish for his goal. Overall I'm delighted but we have a lot of work to do as well. The big thing is it's good to get the first win."
Lyttle made three changes to his starting eleven for the game at Bazaly stadium in Ostrava.
Midfielders Charlie Allen and Charlie Lindsay along with defender Cameron Stewart came in for Michael Forbes (injured), Sean McAllister and Shea Charles (injured).
And six players who did not start the first game against the Danes retained their places: Dale Taylor, who was again given the captain’s armband, Euan Williams, Dane McCullough, Isaac Price, Brodie Gilmore and Lewis Mackinnon.
Northern Ireland started brightly with both Allen and Lindsay having strikes at goal early on and then Taylor forced Kazakhstan keeper Temirlan Anarbekov into a decent save and the forward hit the woodwork from the rebound.
Kazakhstan’s first effort came on 19 minutes, however Zikrillo Sultaniyazov’s shot was blocked and cleared by the Northern Ireland defence.
There was almost half an hour on the clock when Northern Ireland keeper Josh Clarke made his first save. He was equal to a strike from Kazakh captain Galymzhan Kenzhebek.
On 33 minutes Taylor tested Anarbekov once more with a decent hit, while minutes later full back Brodie Gilmore missed the target.
Kenzhebek dragged a shot wide, Alisher Rakhimzhanov had an effort blocked and Murojon Khalmatov’s strike was saved by Clarke as half-time approached.
Just after the restart Arsen Azatov fired a free-kick wide and Clarke saved from Rakhimzhanov.
Northern Ireland’s first clearcut chance of the second period saw Lindsay test Anarbekov on the hour mark and then striker Euan Williams screwed an effort past the post before he was replaced by midfielder Conaty minutes later.
On 68 minutes Ross McCausland had a shot blocked before slipping the rebound to fellow forward McGuckin who swept the ball home to make it 1-0 to Northern Ireland. He had only come on in place of Taylor three minutes earlier.
A minute later, however, Kazakhstan were level. Azatov delivered a corner which was headed into the back of the net by defender Yegor Tkachenko.
The game began to really open up at this stage. McGuckin had a shot blocked before Conaty got on the end of a McCausland corner on 74 minutes to fire the ball home and give Northern Ireland a 2-1 lead.
Kazakhstan tried to hit back straight away and Clarke had to be alert to keep out a snapshot from substitute Danil Ankudinov.
Kenzhebek missed the target, and so did Conaty down the other end, as both teams pushed forward. Lindsay shot wide and had an effort blocked as full-time approached.
In the closing stages Anarbekov saved twice from McCausland but Northern Ireland had done enough to secure the victory.
Northern Ireland U19s: Josh Clarke, Dane McCullough, Cameron Stewart, Lewis Mackinnon, Brodie Gilmore, Isaac Price, Euan Williams, Isaac Price, Charlie Allen, Ross McCausland, Dale Taylor (captain), Charlie Lindsay. Substitutes: (used) Ciaran McGuckin, Oisin Conaty, Matty Carson, Sean McAllister; (unused) Dylan Berry (GK), Caolan McBride, Conor Falls.
Kazakhstan U19s: Temirlan Anarbekov, Yegor Tkachenko, Alexandr Shirobokov, Askar Satyshev, Arsen Azatov, Zikrillo Sultaniyazov, Murojon Khalmatov, Maxat Ramazanov, Alisher Rakhimzhanov, Galymzhan Kenzhebeck (captain), Vadim Yakovlev. Substitutes: Alisher Suleimen (GK), Vladislav Kravchenko, Danil Ankudinov, Mukagali Pangerei, Bauyrzhan Rakhmet, Miras Amantayev, Yan Trufanov, Dias Kushkumbayev.