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Caretaker boss Andy Crosby can see key foundations being planted in place by Northern Ireland U-21s



Under-21 boss Andy Crosby

Under-21 boss Andy Crosby

Under-21 boss Andy Crosby

Northern Ireland Under-21 caretaker boss Andy Crosby has spoken about how much he is enjoying his new role and being impressed by the commitment and desire of his players.

Crosby's kids lost 3-2 at home to Finland on Friday night but are intent on bouncing back against Ukraine tomorrow with third place in the group still up for grabs.

They are currently in fifth in the table, four points behind both the Finns and Ukraine with two matches left - both against the Ukrainians.

Crosby took over in mid-campaign after Ian Baraclough was promoted to the Northern Ireland senior team job and is revelling in the experience.

"I'm really enjoying the role. It's one that I haven't done previously so I wanted to take it and progress myself," he said.

"I was really happy with how it went in the last camp last month after taking over. The effectiveness of the whole group in terms of staff and players was really good and I want to keep that moving forward.

"There is never any question or doubt about the commitment of whoever pulls on the shirt for the Under-21s. It's there in abundance and they leave everything out on the pitch which is a good starting point for any manager."

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Following the 3-2 loss to Finland, Crosby heaped praise on Glentoran front man Paul O'Neill who scored twice.

"Paul may turn up and sometimes think that he is down the pecking order a little bit but he got his first full start against Finland and to score twice, that's him saying what he can do so that's great for me going forward and it's great for his belief and his confidence," stated Crosby.

As for O'Neill, while disappointed with the defeat against Finland it has been a good couple days for him having been named Young Player of the Year at the weekend.

He said: "Any time the manager calls on me, I want to come in and help the team and score as many goals as I can. It's a striker's job to score goals and I want to do that as much as possible when I am on the pitch.

"It was disappointing against Finland because we went 1-0 up and then they scored just before half-time which was a killer for us. Then we went 2-1 up and they scored twice to win but we aren't giving up on third place. We have Ukraine on Tuesday night and Ukraine away next month and we are looking for two wins."

In the eight group matches to date, Northern Ireland have lost four and drawn three with the single win coming in Crosby's first match in charge in Malta in September.

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