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Crosby targeting strong finish to Under-21s' qualifying campaign

 

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Under-21 boss Andy Crosby

Under-21 boss Andy Crosby

Under-21 boss Andy Crosby

Andy Crosby is relishing the opportunity to take charge of the Northern Ireland Under-21 side for the first time tonight.

Formerly a player with Doncaster, Darlington, Chester, Brighton, Oxford and Scunthorpe, and assistant manager under Nigel Adkins at Southampton, Reading, Sheffield United and Hull City, Crosby - whose side tackle Malta in a Euro 2021 qualifier - has been appointed caretaker boss for the Under-21s following the promotion of Ian Baraclough to the senior set-up.

Crosby worked with Baraclough and the team previously and is determined to earn a first victory of the campaign in the behind closed doors clash in Ta' Qali.

The 47-year-old will also take charge of Tuesday's home tie with Denmark at the Ballymena Showgrounds and for the rest of the campaign, which Northern Ireland started poorly before the world was hit by Covid-19.

They have three points from five games thanks to draws against Malta, Finland and Romania in a group in which Denmark are threatening to run away with.

Northern Ireland enter the double header 12 points behind the Danes and seven adrift of second placed Romania. Only the group winners and five best runners-up progress.

Qualification looks beyond Northern Ireland but Crosby will want to make a positive impact in the second part of the campaign.

He said: "I am proud and honoured that Ian and the IFA board have given me this opportunity to continue the great progress made both on and off the pitch with this group of players.

"A lot of things have changed in the world since we were last together but I'm looking forward to seeing the players and staff and, having had numerous conversations with them, I know they can't wait to get back together, prepare well and represent the country with pride in the two games."

Crosby has fantastic options in midfield, with Manchester United youngster Ethan Galbraith, Leeds ace Alfie McCalmont and lively Birmingham star Caolan Boyd-Munce available, while it will be interesting to see how many of the Irish League players are given a run out, with striker Lee Bonis from Portadown plus Cliftonville and Linfield defenders Aaron Donnelly and Ross Larkin new to the squad.

In the Danske Bank Premiership, Ballymena United have signed midfielder Owen McKeown from Crumlin United.

Belfast Telegraph