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Stephen Craigan's European Under-19s are on cusp of joining the Elite

Published 16/11/2015

Northern Ireland captain Ben Kennedy
Northern Ireland captain Ben Kennedy

Northern Ireland will progress to the Elite qualifying phase of the European Under-19 Championships if they can preserve their unbeaten record.

Stephen Craigan's youngsters followed up Thursday's 2-1 win over Norway with a 1-1 draw against mini-tournament hosts Russia to put one foot in the next round.

A draw against Slovakia this morning (10am kick-off GMT) will be enough to see Northern Ireland through to the next stage in the spring of 2016.

Even a defeat wouldn't kill off qualification hopes, but only if the other game, between Russia and Norway is a draw.

Craigan will have to do without Motherwell full-back Ben Hall and Norwich City midfielder Joe Crowe, both of whom are suspended after they picked up yellow cards in each of the first two games.

If anything the Northern Ireland boys will be disappointed that they aren't already through, having led Russia for three quarters of the game.

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Rangers midfielder Jordan Thompson missed a penalty with only four minutes gone, after he himself was fouled by Sergei Evtushenko.

Thompson then fired wide a minute later as Northern Ireland enjoyed a great opening spell.

They were ahead 60 seconds later though when captain Ben Kennedy, who had also scored in the 2-1 win over Norway in their opening game, when he beat Russian goalkeeper Vadim Averkiev.

Andrei Mironov levelled things up in the 74th minute.

Meanwhile Northern Ireland's under-17 girls will play host to Spain, Denmark and Ukraine in the Elite round of their European Championship tournament next March.

Belfast Telegraph

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