Future can be bright despite loss, says Jim Magilton
Northern Ireland 1-4 Serbia
Jim Magilton handed under-21 international debuts to five players and then challenged them to push on and make an impact at their clubs and then senior international level.
Southampton goalkeeper Chris Johns, Burnley defender Cameron Dummigan, West Ham's Jamie Harney and Michael Duffy of Derry City all started the game, while Linfield's Aaron Burns was introduced as a substitute.
It was a baptism of fire for the handful of new faces against a slick Serbian outfit who have qualified for the play-offs after their 4-1 win at Shamrock Park.
"Serbia are a fantastic team and nothing can replicate the kind of experience our young players will get from playing games like this," said Magilton.
"This gives them an idea of what it is like at this level and they have to want to kick on and be regulars in the under-21 team and get into the first teams at their clubs.
"It was tough for them and we conceded three poor goals, the kind that you wouldn't want to be conceding, and one really good goal, but those are things that players can learn from.
"If they don't learn from the mistakes then that's when we have a problem."
Aleksandar Pesic put Serbia ahead on 34 minutes and the visitors then took control of the game when Slavoljub Srnic doubled the lead two minutes later.
The same scenario was repeated early in the second half when Srnic struck again on 56 minutes and Filip Kostic hit Serbia's fourth in the 58th minute.
Ryan Brobbel then marked his final appearance at under-21 level with a consolation goal on 67 minutes after being set up by Kirk Millar's pass.
Magilton's message for those who have now reached the end at under-21 level is that the incentives are there to go further at international level.
"Any young player from Northern Ireland who is aged 19 to 22 has a fantastic chance of being selected by Michael O'Neill for the senior squad and that has to be their goal," he said.
Northern Ireland under-21 defender Luke Conlan has rejoined Burnley on a one-year contract, the Premier League club have announced.
Conlan was released by the Clarets over the summer but having recovered from a knee problem has now put pen to paper on a new deal at Turf Moor.
"I'm very happy to be back at the club, I know a lot of the lads from the last few years and this is where I want to be at," said Conlan.
Northern Ireland's under-16s face Finland in a friendly today at Park Way, Comber (5pm).
The teams will meet again on Friday morning at Knockbreda FC's Breda Park, kick-off 11.30am.