NORTHERN IRELAND manager Michael O’Neill described Leeds United’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell as “confident and assured” following the young goalkeeper’s full competitive international debut.
Whites no 1 Peacock-Farrell was handed his first competitive start for Northern Ireland in Saturday afternoon’s UEFA Nations League hosting of Bosnia who recorded a 2-1 victory at Windsor Park.
The second Bosnian goal came from a mix-up between defender Craig Cathcart and Peacock-Farrell who was beaten to the ball by Elvis Saric who latched on to Cathcart’s header towards his own goal before rounding Peacock-Farrell to double his side’s lead.
Peacock-Farell admitted the outcome was a “tough result to take after such a dominant performance” but the 21-year-old was “proud” to have made his competitive debut.
The Whites stopper also received praise from boss O’Neill who felt the custodian had no chance with Bosnia’s opener which Haris Duljevic put through the ’keeper’s legs.
Leeds United’s Stuart Dallas also played the full 90 minutes.
“Bailey will be disappointed to concede two goals on his debut but I felt he looked assured and confident,” said O’Neill.
“I was delighted with Bailey. I thought he acquitted himself very well. He had no chance with the first goal.
“He looked very assured in everything else that he did.
“In fact, there wasn’t a performance from any of my players that I could be disappointed about.
“These games will help prepare us for the Euro qualifiers, but we’re still very much in this competition as well.”
Peacock-Farrell’s outing ended any chance of the goalkeeper representing England who were also courting his services.
Born in Darlington, Peacock-Farrell qualifies for Northern Ireland through a grandparent but England coaches had recently contacted the Whites l’keeper, investigating the possibility of the custodian switching allegiances to England.
The goalkeeper said last week: “I’ve had several chats with the England goalkeeping coaches – one rang me the other week in fact, but I’m loyal to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland got in really early and made me feel wanted. At that time when I met Michael [O’Neill] I was a nobody, I was just a young ’keeper.”
Reflecting on Saturday’s loss to Bosnia, Peacock-Farrell posted on social media: “That was a tough result to take after such a dominant performance. On a personal level, I’m so proud to have made my competitive debut for Northern Ireland.”
O’Neill’s side continued to struggle in front of goal as they failed to make 67 per cent possession count until Will Grigg’s stoppage-time strike, having been hit twice by a Bosnia side who rarely got out of their own half.
Duljevic opened the scoring in the 37th minute, slipping the ball home from close range with only Bosnia’s second attempt on goal, and Saric then capitalised on the mix-up between Cathcart and Peacock-Farrell to effectively seal it in the 64th minute.
The hosts were earlier denied a penalty in the opening minute when George Saville tumbled under a challenge from Ervin Zukanovic.
Northern Ireland are back in action on Tuesday in an international friendly at home to Israel with Whites winger Dallas looking to right the wrongs.
“I think there are positives to take,” said Dallas following the Bosnia defeat.
“They are a good side, and we made them look average with the stats. On another day we win that comfortably but it wasn’t to be. We need to put right what we did wrong but we also need to look at the positives from it. We need to get back to winning ways.”