Northern Ireland Under-21s finish second but miss out on play-off place

Paul Smyth and Slovakia's Michal Siplak during this Tuesday evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Paul Smyth and Slovakia's Michal Siplak during this Tuesday evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Northern Ireland Under-21s finished runners up in their UEFA U21 EURO Qualifying group following a 1-0 win over Slovakia, but narrowly missed out on a play-off place.

They needed a big win over their opponents and results elsewhere to go their way to stand any chance of making the Euro 2019 play-offs.

In the end Ian Baraclough's side secured a 1-0 win and leapfrogged Slovakia into second place thanks to a second half goal from Glenavon's Mark Sykes.

It has been a fantastic effort from Northern Ireland to finish the group just four points off Spain in top spot.

The manager has overseen six wins, two draws and two defeats in his 10 games in charge, with the highlight last month's 2-1 away win over Group Two leaders Spain.

The visitors had to play the entire second half with only ten men following the dismissal of Laszlo Benes who picked up his second yellow card of the game after a foul on Jamie McDonagh on 44 minutes.