Belfast Telegraph

Youngest Northern Ireland U21 panel must be at its best in tough fixtures: Baraclough

Called up: Ethan Galbraith is in the NI Under-21 squad
Called up: Ethan Galbraith is in the NI Under-21 squad

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland Under-21 manager Ian Baraclough has admitted his team will need to be at their best to pick up points in the Euro 2021 qualifying ties away to Denmark and Romania.

The difficult double-header pits Northern Ireland against the top two seeds in the group, starting tomorrow night in Denmark followed by an encounter with Romania on Monday.

Baraclough's boys have secured two draws in their opening two games at home to Malta and away in Finland. Two more draws would be acceptable.

"Denmark and Romania are quality sides and we know these games will be tough, especially with both being away from home," said Baraclough. "They both reached the Euro Under-21 finals earlier this year and each still have several players who played in the tournament so we will have to be at our best to get something out of the games."

Denmark are the only side in Group 8 with maximum points having defeated Romania 2-1 in their only game so far. Table toppers at present are Finland with four points from two matches with Ukraine next on three points from two games.

The group winners along with the best runners-up from the nine groups automatically qualify for the finals while the other eight nations who finish second enter the play-offs.

For the double-header, Baraclough has opted to select his youngest ever squad including highly-rated Manchester United midfielder Ethan Galbraith (18), Leeds midfielder Alfie McCalmont (19) and Chelsea defender Sam McClelland (17).

"We are blooding youngsters which is great for their development," added Baraclough.

Northern Ireland Under 21 squad

Goalkeepers: Conor Hazard (Celtic), Liam Hughes (Celtic)

Defenders: Caolan Marron (Glenavon), Kofi Balmer (Ballymena United), Eoin Toal (Derry City), Jack O'Mahony (Glenavon), Sam McClelland (Chelsea), Lewis Thompson (Blackburn Rovers), Sean Graham (on loan at Larne from Blackpool)

Midfielders: Cameron Palmer (Partick Thistle), Alfie McCalmont (Leeds United), Kyle McClean (Unattached), Jake Dunwoody (Stoke City), Ethan Galbraith (Manchester United), Alistair McCann (St Johnstone), Shea Gordon (Partick Thistle), Caolan Boyd-Munce (Birmingham City)

Forwards: Paul O'Neill (Glentoran), David Parkhouse (Sheffield United), Lewis McCann (Dunfermline Athletic)

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