COLERAINE Inst pupils Kyle Walker and Jake Francis played their part in helping the Northern Ireland Under-16 team record a famous success in the Sky Sports Victory Shield international against England at the Goldsands Stadium in Bournemouth on Friday night.
A header by Shea Conaty 10 minutes from time gave the boys in green a well deserved win over the defending champions.
England started brightly and Jamal Hector-Ingram broke through but Tom McDermott was quickly off his line to save at the feet of the striker. Northern Ireland replied with a quick attack down the left but Caoimhghin Mulligan saw his shot deflected over the bar.
On 14 minutes Jacob Maddox found Hector-Ingram with a low cross from the right but the striker scooped the ball over the bar. Three minutes later Northern Ireland missed a great opportunity to open the scoring. A good move down the right by Nathan Kerr and Joe Crowe sliced open the home defence and when Crowe sent Conaty through with only the keeper to beat Northern Ireland’s leading marksman drove the ball against the inside of the upright and the attack was cleared.
Five minutes before the break a free kick by Mulligan was not cleared by the English defence and the ball fell to Dylan King but the centre back drove the ball over the bar from 10 yards out.
After the interval Northern Ireland continued to look the more dangerous side. Kyle McClean’s cross from the right was met by Matthew Smyth but his glancing header went inches past the upright. Conaty then shot wide when a pass to the unmarked Matthew Henry might have reaped dividends. On 53 minutes Conaty again went close but his shot from 15 yards was deflected over the bar.
However, with 10 minutes remaining Conaty proved to be the match winner ghosting in at the far post to send a powerful header into the corner of the net.
Urged on by a large home support England pressed strongly in the closing stages but, despite going down to 10 men when captain Nathan Kerr was stretchered off with a badly bruised leg, Northern Ireland held on for a famous victory - their second on English soil in the past eight years.
Northern Ireland’s next match is away to Wales at Bangor City FC on Thursday 21st November.