Belfast Telegraph

Alfie Wylie hails vital warm-up victory

Women's International Football

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland 1 Estonia 0: Sarah Venney stepped off the bench to score the winner as Northern Ireland tasted victory for the first time 13 games.

And now manager Alfie Wylie has challenged his girls to repeat the feat when they face Estonia for a second time tomorrow evening (Clandeboye Park, 7.45pm).

Venney netted the only goal of the game when she fired home with a sweet strike from the edge of the box just four minutes from the end of yesterday's friendly clash at Newforge.

The win is the first that the Northern Ireland women's team has recorded since May 2012 and is a perfect boost ahead of a European Championship qualifier at home to Sweden next month.

"Wins have been hard to come by – although this is the first match we've had in a long time against a team ranked below us – so it's nice for the girls to get that winning feeling again and keeping a clean sheet is a bonus," said Wylie.

"All things considered it's a great result. Estonia have won their last two games, including beating Latvia 8-2 on Saturday. Our girls haven't had a domestic match since August or September and we've only had three internationals since July.

"When I take those things into account I am very pleased with the performance and the result."

Wylie's team was missing a number of regulars, in the shape of Rachel Furness and Sarah McFadden. Lynda Shepherd was forced to withdraw through illness, Julie Nelson was only able to play half the game and Emma Higgins made way for Krystal Parker in goal.

He will hope to have all of those players fully fit and available for the game against Sweden at Shamrock Park on Saturday April 5, but another win over Estonia is Wylie's immediate aim.

"We will be looking for a similar performance on Wednesday and hopefully another win – that's the target," he said.

"These two games are vital to us in terms of our preparation for the match against Sweden and I am very grateful for the support we get from the Irish FA in staging them.

"Otherwise we would be going up against the team ranked second in Europe having not played since last November.

"It's hard enough for our girls to make the step up when they haven't played domestically, to the importance of the matches against Estonia can't be downplayed."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Parker, Hutton, Nelson, McGivern, Hurst, Vance, Caldwell, McDowell, Magill, Callaghan, Mackin. Subs: Corry (for Nelson), Bailie (for McDowell), Waide (for Callaghan), Venney (for Vance).

ESTONIA: Laar, Aarna, Emajoe, Jaadla, Kallas, Loo, Malets, Palmaru, Raadik, Trutsi, Ounpuu.

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