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Wednesday 27 Oct 2021
Gerard Lyttle's U17s kick-off campaign with 2-3 defeat to Scotland

Northern Ireland U17s kicked off their UEFA Euro 2022 preliminary round qualifying campaign with a 3-2 defeat to Scotland at a wet and murky Mourneview Park.

Scotland made the brighter start to the game but Northern Ireland came closest to taking an early lead when Shea Brennan got on the end of an Omari Kellyman ball from the edge of the area but was denied by keeper Jacob Pazikas.

That only delayed the opening goal momentarily when, on eight minutes, Gerard Lyttle's side did move in front. A Caolan Donnelly cross from the left was cleared off the line by Scotland captain Charlie McArthur but only as far Daithi McCallion who duly knocked it home with a strong right-foot finish from around 12 yards out.

However Scotland levelled after a quarter-of-an-hour. Ben Doak won the ball following some poor defending and brought it into the area whereupon it fell for Rory Wilson to place into the bottom right corner. 

As the first half progressed Northern Ireland looked the more likely to find the net again. Samuel Glenfield threatened after Pazikas was forced to gather a Kellyman effort at the second attempt, and was again denied a little later as he tried to connect with a Rio Oudnie-Morgan cross.

At the other end Doak sent a flick just wide of the target before play broke down the other end for Morgan to nod narrowly over.

Pazikas was then forced into an impressive reflex save to keep out a Donnelly effort on 39 minutes but he was powerless to prevent Northern Ireland from regaining the advantage sixty seconds later when Donnelly sent over another delivery to the edge of the six yard box for Kellyman to rise higher than Lennon Miller and direct a looping header into the net.

And there was almost a third for Northern Ireland on the stroke of half-time when first Ruairi McConville and then Brennan couldn't find a way through a crowded box.

It was perhaps no surprise, given the conditions, that the high tempo end to the first half wasn't repeated after the break. 

Indeed, the first effort of note came on 63 minutes when Kellyman did well to control a cross from the left, moving it onto his preferred foot, but his low finish from the edge of the area was sent straight at the keeper.

Chasing the game, Scotland did enjoy periods of possession but couldn't turn this time on the ball into anything fruitful in front of goal.

That changed with 12 minutes remaining. Doak did well to create space for himself out on the right, managing to deliver a deep cross into the six yard box for Malachi Sharpe to glance home from point blank range. 

Northern Ireland came close to going back in front once more on 84 minutes through Jack Patterson's half volley just the wrong side of the near post.

But they were rocked with three minutes left on the clock when Scotland grabbed what turned out to be the winner. A Miller corner was from the left was misjudged by keeper Kai McLean and whilst McConville made an initial clearance the ball only went as far as Wilson who made no mistake in bagging his second of the afternoon. 

Northern Ireland are next in action on Saturday against Italy at Inver Park (3pm) before concluding the group next Tuesday at The Oval when they are due to play Albania.

Northern Ireland: Kai McLean, Sean Brown, Reece Jordan, Ruairi McConville, Jack Patterson, Caolan Donnelly, Sam Glenfield, Rio Oudnie-Morgan, Omari Kellyman, Daithi McCallion, Shea Brennan subs Pierce Charles (not used), Darragh McCloskey (not used), Joel Thompson (replaced Oudnie-Morgan 67), Brendan Hamilton (not used), Odhran McCourt (not used), Bobby McAleese (replaced Glenfield 88), Luca Doherty (not used), Ethan Sousa (replaced Brennan 75), Leon Boyd (replaced Donnelly 88)

Scotland: Jacob Pazikas, Benny-Jackson Luyeye, Bailey Rice, Greig Allen, Charlie McArthur, Ben Doak, Dylan Reid, Rory Wilson, Malachi Sharpe, Lennon Miller, Lewis O'Donnell subs Blessing Oluyemi (not used), Craig Moore (replaced O'Donnell 56), Adam MacDonald (not used), Finlay Murray (not used), Jack Kingdon (replaced Miller 89), Zak McKay (replaced Luyeye 79), Dylan Lobban (not used), Bobby Wales (not used), Ethan Laidlaw (not used)