Belfast Telegraph

Cool Taylor swoops to deliver perfect Finn-ish

Under-21 Friendly

By Stuart McKinley

Two late goals gave the Northern Ireland Under-21 side a victory over their Finnish counterparts in Ballymena last night.

And it was no more than Roy Millar's boys deserved after a solid performance. Finnish striker Jami Puustinen gave his side a first half lead and it wasn't until 11 minutes from time that Northern Ireland drew level through Kieran McKenna before Jonny Taylor netted the winner five minutes from time.

Despite a number of withdrawals through injury Millar was still able to field a virtually full strength side.

They were unfortunate to find themselves a goal behind after 18 minutes as the Northern Ireland boys had enjoyed the majority of the possession in the early stages.

That possession almost paid off on 17 minutes when goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola flapped at David Buchanan's free kick and only for Rory McArdle getting in the way when Chris Casement pounced on the rebound Northern Ireland could have had the lead.

The Finns then went straight up the pitch and when Puustinen was played through on the edge of the box he finished superbly.

Just after the half-hour mark Northern Ireland came within inches of drawing level when McKenna had a shot tipped onto the post by the goalkeeper who then punched away Thomas Stewart's follow-up.

It was no surprise that Finland changed goalkeepers at half-time as Jaakkola didn't seem to inspire much confidence in his defence.

The second half was, on the whole, all Northern Ireland.

Shortly after the break Stewart snatched at a chance, sending the ball over the bar, then replacement goalkeeper Jon Masalin sent his kick-out straight to the feet of Robert Garrett who fed Stewart and this time his effort was saved.

Millar sent on Andrew Waterworth and Mark McAllister in search of an equaliser, but still chances weren't coming around the box.

Earlier in the week Millar tipped McKenna to progress into the senior in the national squad in the near future and on this performance that judgement looks to be correct.

When a free-kick was awarded 11 minutes from time the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder fired the ball over the wall and into the bottom corner with a sweet right-foot shot.

The Northern Ireland boys probably would have been happy with a draw, but it got even better five minutes from time when Taylor finished from close range when he was quickest to a loose ball.

The clock ticked down, McAllister set up Waterworth who forced a great save from Masalin and in injury time Matthew Hazley struck the post with a corner.

N Ireland U21: Tuffey, Callaghan, Taylor, McArdle, Casement, Garrett, Mulgrew, McKenna, Stewart, Fordyce, Buchanan.

Subs: Carson, Simpson, McManamin, Carvill, Hazley, Waterworth, McAlistair.

Finland U21: Junnnila, Rahkamaa, Jalisto, Turunem, Portin, Wikman, Haapaniemi, Hetemaj, Luoma, Emet, Puustimen.

Subs: Masalin, Aho, Ojala, Viljamen, Parikkai.

Referee: D McKeown (Ireland)

Belfast Telegraph


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