Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Bailey Peacock-Farrell will be Northern Ireland's main man for years to come

Peacock-Farrell produced super stop despite shaky moments

Bailey Peacock-Farrell
Bailey Peacock-Farrell

By Steven Beacom in the Sunday Life

Bailey Peacock-Farrell has had a rollercoaster few days. Thankfully for the 22-year-old Leeds United goalkeeper he was able to walk off the pitch in Tallinn last night on a high.

In a media briefing ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia, Peacock-Farrell spoke openly about his club future, saying that, if he was going to stick around at Elland Road, he wanted to be playing rather than sitting on the bench, as had been the case for the final months of the domestic season.

Having been replaced by Kiko Casilla mid-campaign, despite helping Leeds move into promotion contention in the Championship, Peacock-Farrell's assessment of the situation was an honest one.

The likelihood is, however, his comments would not have gone down too well at Leeds.

Peacock-Farrell's return to the Yorkshire outfit for pre-season training and a likely conversation with boss Marcelo Bielsa will be interesting.

It was to this backdrop that the young Northern Ireland ace took to the field for the crucial Group C encounter with Estonia.

The first half was not one to savour for him or the rest of the team who were awful.

Peacock-Farrell looked edgy and was the centre of attention when the impressive Konstantin Vassiljev scored a 25-yard free-kick to give the home team the lead.

Questions were asked of Peacock-Farrell. Had he lined the wall up correctly?

Was he slow to react to the long distance shot?

Yes to the latter, because he ought to have moved quicker to his left to give himself a chance to make the stop, and possibly to the former, though last man in the wall Paddy McNair should have been sharper to block Vassiljev's strike.

Not long after that Peacock-Farrell got lucky when the referee awarded a free-kick to the visitors when Madis Vihmann headed into the net from a corner. The infringement was given for a contentious foul on the goalkeeper. Northern Ireland got away with that one.

In the second half, Peacock-Farrell was fortunate again. Needlessly he gave the ball away and, from the resulting move, Vassiljev smashed an effort against the crossbar.

At that stage Michael O'Neill's side were on course to suffer their first defeat of the campaign, with Estonia fancying their chances every time they attacked.

For goalkeepers there is no hiding place. Under pressure, Peacock-Farrell could have wilted. To his immense credit, the boy from Darlington, who turned down England to play for Northern Ireland, stood tall.

Displaying character and ability to match, he made a brilliant and vitally important save with his feet Pat Jennings style to keep out Vlasiy Sinyavskiy in the 67th minute.

By the time the Leeds Academy graduate was called upon again, Northern Ireland were 2-1 ahead thanks to the combination of super subs Conor Washington, Josh Magennis and Jordan Jones.

That trio had inspired a stunning turnaround but there was still work to be done. Moments after Magennis put O'Neill's team in front, Peacock-Farrell pulled off an excellent diving save, pushing Sergei Zenjov's shot around the post.

No wonder seasoned Premier League performers Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart gazed at the young goalkeeper with respect. There's something about Bailey. He's a kid with talent and a strong mind on and off the pitch.

In the early stages of his international development he has made mistakes but he's also come up with massive saves too.

You get the feeling he's going to be Northern Ireland's main man between the sticks for years to come, and if Leeds don't want him to be their number one then there will be plenty of others who do.

Well played Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Now for a clean sheet on Tuesday versus Belarus.

Belfast Telegraph

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