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Magilton's young starlets suffer late heartache against Iceland

Northern Ireland U21 0 Iceland U21 1

By Keith Bailie

Northern Ireland's Under-21s lost the opening game of their Euro 2017 qualifying campaign 1-0 against Iceland at Mourneview Park last night.

Jim Magilton's men were undone by an 87th-minute winner from Heidar Aegisson, who found the net from outside the area.

With France, Scotland, Ukraine and Macedonia in Northern Ireland's group, the chances of qualification for next summer's finals in Poland were always remote, but a home defeat in the opening game means Magilton's focus will be on player development rather than results.

On the development front, there were signs that this crop could provide full internationals in due course, with captain and Hartlepool defender Liam Donnelly looking comfortable while Rangers man Jordan Thompson worked hard in midfield.

The Irish League's Gavin Whyte and Joel Cooper didn't look out of place, while Rhys Marshall also impressed.

Former Glenavon man Shayne Lavery tried his luck in the 17th minute only to see his effort held by Thorri Runarsson. Cooper was also denied in the 57th minute.

Dale Gorman, son of former Linfield and Coleraine man Tony, had a shot saved soon after.

With 10 minutes left, Louis Rooney of Plymouth Argyle had his effort saved. Then, in the 87th minute, Aegisson delivered the killer blow, curling into the top corner from around 20 yards.

They will now fly to Skopje for Tuesday's qualifier with Macedonia (kick-off 12pm UK time).

Northern Ireland: Mitchell, Dummigan, Donnelly, Johnson (Sendles Whyte 61), Nolan, Whyte, Gorman, Thompson, Cooper (Charles 65), Lavery (Rooney 78), Marshall. Subs not used: Deane, Conlon, Sykes, Doherty.

Iceland: Runarsson, Arnarson (Johanneson 71), Siguarjonsson, O. Omarsson, Hermannsson, Bodvarsson, Jonsson, Aegisson, E. Omarsson (Olafsson 89), Thrandarson, Vilhjalmsson (Karlsson 82). Subs not used: Schram, Poroarson, Gretarsson, Gudmundsson.

Ref: Ville Nevalainen

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