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Frustration for Northern Ireland Under-21s in goalless draw

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Bobby Burns with Malta's Zachary Brincat during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Bobby Burns with Malta's Zachary Brincat during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Lewis Thompson with Malta's Zachary Brincat during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jake Dunwoody with Malta's Michele Sansone during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jake Dunwoody with Malta's Michele Sansone during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Kyle McClean with Malta's Kurt Shaw during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Lewis Thompson with Malta's Zachary Grech during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Lewis Thompson with Malta's Zachary Grech during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's David Parkhouse with Malta's Nicholas Pulis during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's David Parkhouse with Malta's Nicholas Pulis during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Kyle McClean with Malta's Kurt Shaw during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jake Dunwoody with Malta's Zachary Grech during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's David Parkhouse with Malta's Jean Borg during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Caolan Boyd Munce and Malta's Aidan Friggieri during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Jake Dunwoody and Malta's Michele Sansone during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Jake Dunwoody and Malta's Michele Sansone during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Bobby Burns and Malta's Aidan Friggieri during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Shea Gordon with Malta's Jean Borg during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Shea Gordon with Malta's Gary Camilleri during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's David Parkhoue and Malta's Nicholas Pulis during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's David Parkhouse with Malta's Zachary Grech during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jake Dunwoody with Malta's Kurt Shaw during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Jake Dunwoody and Malta's Zachary Grech during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Lewis Thompson and Malta's Zachary Grech during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Eoin Toal with Malta's Zachary Brincat during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Bobby Burns with Malta's Zachary Brincat during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's David Parkhouse with Malta's Jean Borg during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jan Tanti with Malta's Jan Busuttil during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Kyle McClean with Malta's Jan Busuttil during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Caolan Boyd Munce and Malta's Aidan Friggieri during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Jake Dunwoody and Malta's Michele Sansone during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Jake Dunwoody
Bobby Burns in action for Northern Ireland Under 21s last week.
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Jake Dunwoody and Malta's Jan Busuttil during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Lewis Thompson and Malta's Zachary Grech during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Kofi Balmer and Malta's Andreas Vella during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Kyle McClean and Malta's Zachary Grech during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Kyle McClean and Malta's Jan Busuttil during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's David Parkhoue and Malta's Nicholas Pulis during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Jake Dunwoody and Malta's Zachary Grech during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Kyle McClean and Malta's Zachary Grech during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Jake Dunwoody and Malta's Jan Busuttil during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Kyle McClean and Malta's Jan Busuttil during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 6/09/19 Northern Ireland v Malta U21 Euro Qualifier N Ireland's Kofi Balmer and Malta's Andreas Vella during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Pierce Bird during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's David Parkhouse with Malta's Jean Borg and Andreas Velladuring Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 06th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Lewis Thompson with Malta's Nicholas Pulis during Friday nights Under-21 Euro Qualifier at the Showgrounds, Ballymena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

By Ian Parker

Northern Ireland Under-21s suffered frustration as they were held to a goalless draw by Malta in the opening match of their Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.

The hosts dominated play at the Ballymena Showgrounds but could not make it count as they settled for a point from this Group Eight encounter.

The first real chance for Northern Ireland came after 14 minutes. Jake Dunwoody's dangerous cross from the left just eluded David Parkhouse but the ball fell for Shea Gordon, whose shot was saved at point-blank range by Malta goalkeeper Andreas Vella.

Alfie McCalmont, 24 hours removed from his senior debut in the final moments of the 1-0 friendly win over Luxembourg, then sent in a dangerous low cross but Parkhouse scuffed his shot wide.

Malta had barely stepped foot in the other half but Conor Hazard did well to keep out Kurt Shaw's header in front of his left post just before the break.

McCalmont bent a shot narrowly wide to start the second half before Jan Busuttil warmed the palms of Hazard at the other end.

Northern Ireland continued to push forward as Dunwoody's low shot was pushed around a post for a corner before Bobby Burns headed over from close range.

Ian Baraclough sent on Ethan Galbraith, another to have featured for the seniors a day earlier, amid a series of late changes and they pushed for a winner.

Dunwoody saw a well-struck shot blocked by Vella at the near post before the goalkeeper tipped Parkhouse's stoppage-time header over to spark big celebrations on the Malta bench.

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