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Friday 17 Mar 2023
WU16s register a win and a defeat at UEFA tournament in Bulgaria

Northern Ireland Women’s Under-16s have registered a win and a defeat so far at a UEFA WU16 development tournament in Bulgaria.

All the matches in the four-team mini tournament are being staged at the Stadium Albena complex in the Black Sea resort of Albena.

First up for Stevie Graham’s team was a game against the Bulgarians on Tuesday.

It ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat, however Northern Ireland were the better team overall and should have had more to show for their efforts.

The WU16s bounced back yesterday by defeating North Macedonia 2-1. They dominated the game and only an inspired Macedonian keeper prevented them from inflicting a heavy defeat on their opponents.

In game one Northern Ireland started slowly and were punished by the Bulgarians after just five minutes. The hosts scored with a well struck free-kick from the edge of the area which turned out to be the only goal of the game.

The WU16s then upped the tempo and both Eva Myles and Gracie Conway came close to grabbing an equaliser as the first half wore on.

After the break Northern Ireland dominated, however they were unable to conjure up any clearcut chances.

In yesterday’s encounter Sophie Kelly-Bradley got both goals. Her first, on 13 minutes, saw her pick up the ball down the left, skip past her marker and fire the ball across the keeper into the bottom corner.

North Macedonia equalised just a minute later through a long range shot, however Kelly-Bradley restored Northern Ireland’s lead after 32 minutes. A Conway shot was blocked and the ball fell to Jessica McGuinness who played it across the box to the back post where Kelly-Bradley was on hand to tap it home.

Prior to the second goal Myles had a great effort from the edge of the area which went inches wide, while after goal number two Mia Reilly’s rasping drive was well saved by the Macedonia keeper and McGuinness hit the crossbar with a long range shot before the stopper produced a superb save to keep out a McGuinness free-kick.

After the break Northern Ireland continued to play with a high intensity and had a flurry of chances. McGuinness struck the bar twice and Conway also hit the crossbar. And in the closing stages the Macedonia keeper made good saves from a couple of Erin Boyle strikes.

The final game for the WU16s in the development tournament is against Montenegro on Sunday (8am start UK time).

Northern Ireland WU16s line-up v Bulgaria: Kate Smith, Laurie Bell, Anastasia Stanyte, Ellen Hampton, Zoe Knox, Mia Reilly, Gracie Conway, Niamh Hassan, Sophie Kelly-Bradley, Jessica Mulholland, Eva Myles. Substitutes: Jessica McGuinness (37’), Abbie Smith (GK) (45’), Caitlin Carlisle, Anna Walsh, Eden Donnan (all 57’), Kirsten Farley, Erin Boyle (both 62’), Lillie Horner, Clodagh Maguire (both 67’).

Northern Ireland WU16s line-up v North Macedonia: Kate Smith, Laurie Bell, Anastasia Stanyte, Ellen Hampton, Zoe Knox, Mia Reilly, Jessica McGuinness, Gracie Conway, Niamh Hassan, Sophie Kelly-Bradley, Eva Myles. Substitutes: Eden Donnan, Abbie Smith (GK), Anna Walsh (all 45’), Jessica Mulholland, Kirsten Farley, Lillie Horner (all 55’), Caitlin Carlisle, Clodagh Maguire, Erin Boyle (all 65’).