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Monday 06 Nov 2023
Northern Ireland share spoils with Wales in Victory Shield opener

Northern Ireland kicked off their 2023 Victory Shield campaign with a draw against tournament hosts Wales on Monday evening.

A bright and breezy start to the game at Central Park, home of Denbigh Town FC, saw Northern Ireland enjoy the better periods of possession during the opening exchanges although neither keeper was forced into a save until the 10-minute mark when Ceadach O'Neill was denied at the near post by Welsh custodian Aidan Stokes.


The deadlock was broken on 16 minutes in some style when George Feeney powered home a header after Chris Atherton had sent a curling right-foot free-kick into the area.

Northern Ireland could have doubled their advantage on 25 minutes following a great Atherton run through the defence before laying the ball off for O'Neill but a moment of hesitation allowed Olly Reynolds to clear the danger.

Northern Ireland came close again five minutes from the break after Glenn McCourt picked the ball up in his own half and proceeded to cut through the home defence, travelling as far as the six-yard box only for Stokes to make himself big to deal with the threat.

Wales might have levelled soon after, however, when Alex Marciniak floated over a corner from the left but Zak Robinson got enough of a touch to claw the ball away as Reynolds and Will Grainger lurked at the far post.

Half-time: 0-1

The home side made a triple substitution at the break and indeed started the second half on the front foot. But despite their early endeavour it was Northern Ireland who came closest to finding the net again when McCourt was presented with chance inside the box only to see his shot charged down by the packed defence.

Callum Leacock almost extended Northern Ireland's lead just after the hour but he sent an ambitious goalbound shot from the centre circle to force Stokes into a scrambled save to tip the ball over.

At the other end substitute Ollie Dewsbury came close for the Welsh with a low effort from just outside the right side of the area but Robinson did well to make the save.

With just two minutes of normal time remaining Everton's Patrick Mlynarski levelled for the hosts after collecting the ball on the edge of the area before taking it past two defenders and slotting beneath the keeper.

And Wales could have snatched the win two minutes into stoppage time when skipper Luis Gardener unleashed a powerful right-foot strike from outside the area only to be met by a superb diving save from Robinson.

Northern Ireland did have one last chance of their own with barely 30 seconds remaining. O'Neill was unlucky to fire into the side-netting from just a few yards out.

Northern Ireland are next in action on Wednesday at noon when they face Scotland, who lost 1-0 to the Republic of Ireland in the opening game earlier in the day.

Full-time: 1-1

Wales U16: Aidan Stokes, Prince Cisse, Olly Reynolds, Alex Marciniak, T-Jay Parfitt, Tom Dearen, Callum Jones, Will Grainger, Luis Gardener, Oli Newman, Hayden Allmark

Subs used: Eddie Ellis-Robinson (27'); Marlie Neil, Charlie Street and Jayden Lienou (all 41'); Ollie Dewsbury and Louie Bradbury (both 56'); Patrick Mlynarski (66'); Bobo Evans (72'). Subs not used: Harri Pugh, Eliot Meredith, Theo Pitt

Northern Ireland U16: Zak Robinson, Alex Watson, Darragh McCann, Noah McDonnell, Callum Leacock, Troy Savage, Glenn McCourt, Matthew Burns, Chris Atherton, Ceadach O'Neill, George Feeney

Subs used: Sidney Eldred and Christian Coyle (both 60'); Kalum Thompson (74') Subs not used: Milo Beimers, Jayden Charnley, Harry Moran, Calum Anderson, Jack Faloona, Scott Hamilton, Harry Allen, Aron KC

Match report: Martin Harris