International Challenge Trophy: Crusaders duo on target as Northern Ireland's Under-23s top table
Northern Ireland U23s 2 Poland U23s 0
Crusaders pair Martin Donnelly and Jordan Owens grabbed the goals to help Northern Ireland's Under-23s sink Poland at Coleraine last night.
Ronnie McFall's local lads delivered to put the men in green joint top of their qualifying group with Portugal in the International Challenge Trophy.
McFall said: “It was a superb display with everyone working hard to achieve success.”
The Irish next travel to play the Portuguese in October.
Another Crusaders player, keeper Chris Keenan, made a number of outstanding saves on the night but McFall’s team was well worth the victory, creating numerous chances, particularly in the first half.
Skipper Jamie Mulgrew, a tireless performer, sent a shot wide before his Linfield teammate Philip Lowry went close as the Polish defence faltered.
Liam Boyce was denied only by an outstretched boot from Gikiewicz and the Cliftonville striker almost scored moments later, lobbing a dangerous shot towards the target. The keeper did well to run the ball out from under the crossbar.
The home side finally snatched the advantage close to half-time. Owens’ cross fell into the path of Donnelly (below) and the Crues winger angled a drive past Gikiewicz.
The Poles made changes at half-time and were much more potent in attack with attack-minded midfielder Radislaw Majewski pulling the strings.
Janczyk was denied by Keenan but the keeper was caught in no man’s land on the hour but Janczyk’s shot was cleared off the line by Aaron Stewart.
Northern Ireland regained their composure to seal victory with a fabulous finish from Owens following a perfectly weighted ball from Lowry.
A rare error from Billy-Joe Burns presented Poland with a chance to reduce the deficit. His undercooked back pass presented Przemyslaw Trytko with a late opening. Keenan, however, made amends for his earlier gaff by sticking out a boot.
Northern Ireland: Keenan (Crusaders), Burns (Linfield), Redman (Portadown), Stewart (Ballymena Utd), Magee (Glenavon), Mulgrew (Linfield), Lowry (Linfield), Fordyce (Glentoran), Owens (Crusaders), L Boyce (Cliftonville), Donnelly (Crusaders). Subs: O’Neill (Dungannon Swifts), Ramsey (Portadown) for Redman (63 mins), D. Boyce (Coleraine) for L. Boyce (56 mins), Carvill (Linfield) for Owens (85 mins), Catney (Cliftonville) for Fordyce (46 mins), Taylor (Glentoran), Smith (Ballymena Utd)
Poland: Gikiewicz, Wasiluk, Polczak, Oziebala, Cwielong, Majewski, Trytko, Kuklis, Janczyk, Kokoszka, Danch. Subs. Stachowlak (GK), Wilk, Kowalski for Polczak (46 mins), Janus for Kuklis (46), Pozniak for Oziebala (73).
Referee: Arnold Hunter, Maguiresbridge.