Northern Ireland slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Scotland at Seaview on Thursday evening thanks to a second half penalty from Caroline Weir.
In a game of few opportunities, Northern Ireland can certainly take positives out of it. They put in a well-organised and disciplined performance in front of 500 fans.
Scotland had the first opening of the game inside four minute when Kirsty Hanson crossed for Claire Emslie who fizzed her effort over the crossbar from close range.
Northern Ireland were playing at a good intensity as they carved out an opening in the 15th minute when Birmingham City’s Rebecca Holloway drove forward, but she mis-hit her effort as it went behind for a goal-kick.
In a fairly evenly balanced opening 25 minutes it was Kenny Shiels’ side who created another half chance when Laura Rafferty played a raking ball forward for Lauren Wade. However, Lee Alexander, a former teammate of Wade at Glasgow City, was out to gather.
In a half limited of talking points, Northern Ireland created another half opportunity. Kirsty McGuinness got into a crossing position that Alexander easily gathered at the visitors’ goal.
Eventually, it was Scotland who came inches away from taking the lead. Everton’s Emslie cut inside on 41 minutes, fizzing a shot in that clipped the crossbar as it sailed over the top.
Second half energy
Both managers made a change at the break when Toni Leigh Finnegan replaced Nadene Caldwell for Northern Ireland, while Fiona Brown replaced Lana Clelland for the Scots.
Northern Ireland started the second half well. Chloe McCarron nearly played Wade in on goal, but Alexander came quick off her line to grab the loose ball ahead of the Glentoran attacker.
Holloway created some problems for Scotland down the left. She burst down the flank once again before her cross directed for Wade was well cut out by Sophie Howard.
Alexander was then forced into action following a counter attack. Marissa Callaghan fired in a low cross that the keeper gathered just before Wade could reach it and turn the ball into the net.
Scotland wasted a fine opportunity as Lisa Robertson’s 30-yard drive was pushed out by Jackie Burns in goal. The loose ball moved in front of Kirsty Hanson, but she failed to connect.
Shiels then made a further double change as Louise McDaniel, who’s been on excellent form for Cliftonville, and Samantha Kelly replaced Wade and McGuinness on the hour mark.
Scotland interim manager Stuart Maclaren also made a change when Manchester City’s Caroline Weir replaced Robertson in the 63rd minute.
Forced into action following the substitutions, Burns made a fine stop for the home side. This came after Brown cut inside and fired in a powerful strike that the keeper got down well to hold.
On 75 minutes, Burns made another save. Hanson hit a snapshot that the keeper had to get down well to react to, once again holding the effort.
However, a penalty went to Scotland after Toni Leigh-Finnegan tripped Christie Murray with fifteen minutes to go. Weir stepped up and slotted her effort into the bottom corner despite Burns guessing the right way.
Time running out
With ten minutes to go, Shiels made a further three changes. Ciara Wartling, Emily Wilson and Kerry Beattie replaced McCarron, Rafferty and Callaghan.
Kelly then had a go from range on 84 minutes. Her effort was on target but Alexander in the Scotland goal was alert to make the save.
Beattie then did well to get the ball into the box and Emily Wilson almost nipped in. However, Alexander was out to smother it quickly before the Crusaders striker could get a shot away.
Scotland had another opening in the 90th minute. Weir fizzed in an effort from 20 yards that sailed over the top of the crossbar.
Burns was alert once more when Lucy Graham fired in a shot. The keeper beat the strike away from the target in what was the final opportunity of the match.
Northern Ireland: Burns, McKenna, Holloway, Nelson, Rafferty (Wilson ’81), McFadden, McCarron (Beattie ’81), Callaghan (Sherwood ’81), Caldwell (Finnegan ’46), Wade (McDaniel ’60), McGuinness (Kelly ’60).
Scotland: Alexander, McLauchlan, Westrup (Eddie ’79), Howard, Doherty, Murray (Graham ’90), Arthur, Robertson (Weir ’64),Hanson (Arnot ’79), Clelland (Brown ’45), Emslie (Grimshaw ’90).