Women's World Cup Qualifier: Northern Ireland count cost of missed opportunities
Northern Ireland women ought to be celebrating their first win of the World Cup 2015 qualifying campaign after a strong show against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but a string of missed opportunities left them with just a point in a goalless draw.
Alfie Wylie's talented but inexperienced side of young players had the greater possession and better chances, but flattered the visitors, who were beaten 7-0 by Scotland last month.
Wylie said: "We should have won. We dominated the game and they had no shots on targets, while we hit the woodwork twice and forced their goalkeeper to make a couple of good saves. But ultimately we were missing our decision-making in the final third.
"They're great girls and they had done superbly well. There were several game-changing moments, right up until when Julie Nelson had a shot from a free-kick just outside the box in the final minute and it hit the post, but they showed some great team-work tonight along with some excellent individual performances."
Striker Aimee Mackin, who is only 16 and made her senior debut last night, stood out for Northern Ireland with her battling tenacity along the left flank, showing leadership across the front of the team, while the midfield clubbed together in the absence of injured Glasgow City midfielder Simone Magill.
It wasn't until around the hour mark when Northern Ireland slipped into gear, having spent too long frustrating the visitors with their shape and composition, rather than going for the kill.
Substitute Lynda Shepherd was denied by Almenia Hodzic mid-way through the second half, sparking another burst of energy from Northern Ireland's attack, and the best chance of the game. Beating the goalkeeper and swerving Bosnia and Herzegovina's stationary defence, Mackin held her head in her hands after shooting just wide of the post, before Lyndsay Corry came off the bench to chip in with pace and width.
Wylie praised his young girls for their professionalism and enthusiasm, but admits much bigger challenges lie ahead in this campaign: "We have Poland in three weeks' time and there, you're talking about an absolutely top side, with real quality.
"I was really pleased with the girls. They got behind each other, supported each other and looked for movement, tried to pass and didn't just hoof the ball. But we don't have a natural goalscorer. We just do what we can, with the girls we have, and I'm very lucky to have a great group."
NORTHERN IRELAND: Higgins, Nelson, Hutton, Hurst, Vance, Caldwell, McDowell (Shepherd, 57), McFadden, Doran (Callaghan, 90+1), McGuinness (Corry, 80), Mackin. Subs not used: Burns, Armour, McGivern, Doherty.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Hodzic, Seslija, Am Spahic, M Kulis (Grebenar, 90+5), Aida Hadzic, Al Spahic, Nikolic, Fetahovic, Kadric, L Kulis, Dijakovic (Crnjak, 82). Subs not used: E. Hasanbegovic, Alma Hadzic, M Hasanbegovic, Islamovic, Stanic.