Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has suggested goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell may need to leave Burnley in January to be sure of keeping his place in the national team.
Although late goalscorers Josh Magennis and Gavin Whyte took the headlines, Peacock-Farrell was arguably Northern Ireland’s man of the match in Saturday’s vital come-from-behind 2-1 win over Kosovo, making crucial saves to keep his side in the match.
He got down smartly to deny Vedat Muriqi his second of the night with Northern Ireland trailing 1-0, and then stood up strong to prevent Zymer Bytyqi putting Kosovo back in front after Whyte’s equaliser.
The 25-year-old has been Northern Ireland’s number one since Michael O’Neill gave him his debut in 2018 and has not let them down in 34 appearances to date, but he came into this international window with his place in question as the only goalkeeper not getting regular playing time at club level.
Conor Hazard has joined Finnish club HJK on loan from Celtic, while Luke Southwood is at Cheltenham on loan from Reading. Peacock-Farrell spent last season with Sheffield Wednesday but is now back at Burnley and playing back-up to Aro Muric – the man who was in goal for Kosovo at Windsor Park.
“We have spoken about that,” Baraclough said after praising Peacock-Farrell’s display.
“I’ve spoken to Conor Hazard and to Luke Southwood. Bailey was the only one not playing. He knows he’s got competition, so obviously he’s keeping himself in shape. If the next (international) window is March, he’s got six months to get in the team or in January move on.”
Peacock-Farrell said in the Northern Ireland matchday programme he had received offers in the summer but had been told by new Burnley manager Vincent Kompany he was wanted at Turf Moor.
“I haven’t played as many games as I would have liked so far, but I feel like I can build on the back of a really good season and I’m in a positive place,” he said.
“There were a few clubs here and there interested in taking me on loan, but after talks with Burnley it was clear I was going to be staying there this season.
“With the change of manager and that kind of thing, it was up in the air a little bit and with lots of players going in and out they wanted me to stay and if they want that, that’s what happens and I am happy to do that and fight for my spot.”
Saturday’s win finally put Northern Ireland’s long winless run in the Nations League to bed as they picked up three points for the first time in 15 attempts – although Cyprus’s surprise win over group leaders Greece later in the day meant the battle to avoid relegation to League D continues.
The victory eased the pressure that had been building on Baraclough, who hopes the result can be a turning point.
“Every win means something, but a Nations League win, the first one we’ve managed, I’m really pleased with that,” he said. “It gives us a platform to build on. We know we’re not the finished article, but we are still building, trying to bring in young players…
“Those players create a squad, a competitive squad and we need to keep building on that.”
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