Alfie McCalmont strike earns Northern Ireland Under-21s a draw
A superb strike from Alfie McCalmont earned Northern Ireland Under-21s a draw in their friendly international with Hungary at Ferney Park last night.
The midfielder curled home a delightful effort into the top corner ten minutes from time to cancel out Adrian Szoke’s first-half goal.
Under-21s boss Ian Baraclough gave a handful of fringe players a chance from the start, however all 20 members of his squad got a run-out at some stage during the 90 minutes.
Regular midfielder Shea Gordon almost opened the scoring with a snapshot and he also had an effort saved by Hungarian keeper Zsombor Nagy during the first half.
Glentoran midfielder Chris Gallagher also had a decent hit in the opening 45 minutes, although his effort drifted wide of the post.
The deadlock was broken when Heracles Almelo midfielder Szoke got the final touch after a scramble in the home penalty area after Northern Ireland keeper Liam Hughes had initially made a good save.
Hungary coach Zoltan Gera, who used to play for West Brom, made eight changes at the break, with Baraclough also making several switches in a stop-start second half.
Chances were at a premium though as both sides struggled to carve out any real opportunities for large parts of the half.
Just as the game looked to be heading towards a victory for the visitors up stepped McCalmont.
Substitute Harry Robinson was only on the pitch a matter of seconds when he fired in a shot which was pushed away by the Hungarian keeper.
The rebound fell to McCalmont who shifted the ball from his right foot to his left foot and produced a sweet curler into the top corner from 20 yards.
Northern Ireland welcome Romania to the Ballymena Showgrounds on Tuesday knowing they likely need a victory to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Romania sit second in Group Eight with nine points from four games while Northern Ireland are fifth with two points from draws against Malta and Finland.