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Liverpool teenager shows “maturity beyond his years” in 1st international start

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Conor Bradley’s display in his first Northern Ireland start offered Ian Baraclough some positives amid the disappointment of a dismal second half in their 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Bulgaria.

“Starting the game, he’s dealt with that again as he has everything put in front of him, he’s dealt with it with maturity beyond his years.

“It’s not just about tackles,” Bradley said.

With the World Cup dream dead after Jamal Lewis’ contentious red card and the 2-0 defeat in Switzerland on Saturday, the positive momentum built up last month has gone.

The Liverpool full-back has already won plenty of fans among the Green and White Army for some robust challenges he has put in during late cameos, but his fifth cap came from the start and he was seen in a more advanced role as he pushed forward down the right.

I felt Paddy (McNair) might just have given us a bit more with his experience and Stuart Dallas, we knew we couldn’t play him for much more than half an hour so it was about trying to put that experience in there.” Sadly for Northern Ireland, the moves did not work and Baraclough’s side rarely looked like getting back on level terms – a familiar problem for a team who have only twice recovered from losing positions to take a draw in Baraclough’s 18 games in charge.

Bradley was a constant thorn in Bulgarian sides as Northern Ireland dominated the first half, setting up chances for Jordan Thompson and Josh Magennis, while also winning a corner as he raced into the box to take on two defenders.
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