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Monday 01 Aug 2022
Opening weekend sees debuts for several NI players | NIPW

Highly-rated teenage defender Conor Bradley made his Bolton Wanderers debut at the weekend as they picked up a point in their opening day 1-1 draw at Portman Road against League One promotion favourites Ipswich Town.

Bradley, who is on a season-long loan from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, was also instrumental in the visitors' goal, earning his team a 25th minute penalty after being fouled inside the area.  

Speaking about the 19-year-old’s debut on the club website, manager Ian Evatt said: “I thought he was excellent. I think it was a real big test for him. I think physically he’ll understand the demands now of playing in that position for us. 

“Second half we got into some really good crossing positions and we just needed him to make that back post, but the physical energy that it takes to relentlessly do that is really challenging. 

“He’s going to improve immensely playing regular football with us this season and we’re delighted to have him.”

With it being the opening weekend of the new season quite a number of other Northern Ireland internationals were making their debuts for their new employers following moves over the summer. 

In the Championship striker Conor Washington started for newly promoted Rotherham United who opened their campaign with a draw at home to Swansea City, while Daniel Ballard went straight into the Sunderland side, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Coventry City, following his close season transfer to the Stadium of Light from Arsenal.

Meanwhile, in League One, Will Grigg failed to mark his return to MK Dons with a goal as they lost their opening fixture 1-0 at Cambridge United, while former under-21 international Rory Holden came off the bench to make his debut for Port Vale after missing the whole of last season with a knee injury. 

Goalkeeper Luke Southwood, who joined Cheltenham Town on a season’s loan from Reading, had a disappointing debut for the Robins who let slip a 2-0 lead at home to Peterborough to eventually lose 3-2 to Grant McCann’s outfit. 

However, in League Two, Sam McClelland got his loan spell at Barrow off to a winning start after they stunned newly promoted Stockport County by taking a 3-0 half-time lead, and although the home side pulled two goals back in the second period the Bluebirds held on to claim an unexpected three points. 

On the goalscoring front, Billy Mckay’s second goal of the season salvaged a point for Inverness Caledonian Thistle who drew 1-1 at home with Queen’s Park as league football also got under way in Scotland over the weekend. 

After missing the last three games with injury, striker Kyle Lafferty returned to lead the line for Kilmarnock who could only draw at home with Dundee United. Also named in the Killie panel were former Coleraine midfielder Brad Lyons and Liam Donnelly, who were both named as substitutes, the latter coming on to play the final half-hour. 

Last season’s runners-up in the Scottish Premiership, Rangers, got their campaign off to a winning note after coming from a goal down to defeat Livingston 2-1 at the Almondvale Stadium, though Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis watched the entire proceedings from the substitutes' bench.

Finally, Charlie Lindsay scored twice and Charlie McCann once as Rangers ‘B’ team defeated Cumbernauld Colts 6-3 in the Lowland League in Scotland which commenced last week.