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Northern Ireland teenagers ready to help women get off the mark against struggling Slovakians

Slovakia v N Ireland

By Adam McKendry

Northern Ireland Women will be looking to get the first points of their World Cup qualifying campaign when they take on Slovakia in Zilina today.

The hosts are bottom of Group Three after opening with three defeats from as many outings, while Alfie Wylie’s side are also looking to get off the mark having lost to Norway and the Republic of Ireland in their first two games.

In search of those first points, Northern Ireland are likely to opt for an offensive formation at Stadion MSK with Everton’s Simone Magill and Reading’s Rachel Furness expected to partner one another up front.

Despite Slovakia’s lowly position in the group, Wylie is expecting a tough contest from their opponents, who held them to a 0-0 draw when they last met in March.

However, the manager believes that training has “been good with a good tempo” this week and he’s eager to get at the Slovakians.

“They have quality players and it will be very difficult against them, however we will try and get at them,” Wylie commented. “I have no doubt we’ll give a good account of ourselves.”

His squad is boosted by the return of an experienced figure in Sarah McFadden, the Durham midfielder returning to the team after giving birth to baby daughter Harper eight weeks ago.

It is still a young squad, however, with Under-19 stars Lauren Perry, Brenna McPartlan and Megan Bell all travelling to Slovakia, as does Under-17 winger Rebecca McKenna.

Wylie added: “The younger girls haven’t looked out of place. Hopefully the experience will help to prepare them for the future. They’re certainly good enough to be here.

“Their inclusion shows our regional excellence programmes are developing players for the senior international team. The investment by the Irish FA in the Under-19s and Under-17s is definitely bearing fruit.”

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