Michael O’Neill’s side were outclassed in terms of talent in Adana but had it not been for an unforgivable lack of concentration at the back, their hard work and resilience would have spared yet another friendly defeat.
Just seconds before the break, goalkeeper Carroll and defender Baird suffered a dreadful lack of communication, both standing off as Mevlut Erdinc nipped in to touch Bilal Kisa’s chip over the line.
It was a bitter pill for the visitors to swallow but to their credit they dug deep to ensure they did not fall further behind – Baird responding creditably after his error and Jonny Evans impressive in repelling everything Turkey threw his way.
For a non-competitive match, there was a highly charged atmosphere in the Adana 5 Ocak Stadium, partly attributable to traditional Turkish enthusiasm and partly to the national team’s near 10-year absence from the city.
After a lively start by the hosts, Arda Turan lifted the ball into the net on six minutes but was correctly judged offside.
The pressure was building quickly and only a pair of goalline clearances saved Northern Ireland in the 10th minute.
Adem Buyuk’s initial effort was goalbound until Steve Davis headed it back at the near post and Ersan Adem Gulum’s follow-up looked destined for the far corner when Oliver Norwood glanced it up and off the crossbar.
Having changed to a back five, Northern Ireland managed a rare foray into opposition territory on the half-hour mark.
Niall McGinn’s willingness to run at defenders was key, with Davis providing support before laying off for Norwood. The Huddersfield midfielder managed to get a shot away from the edge of the area but it started high and kept rising.
There was a moment of concern for Evans when Adem made a clumsy challenge that left him needing treatment but he was able to continue.
The stalemate looked certain to last at least until the break until Kisa’s clever pass caught Carroll and Baird in two minds in stoppage time, allowing Erdinc to play poacher. Carroll and Baird held the post-mortem as they trudged off seconds later.
Carroll’s substitution at half-time, for Alan Mannus, was almost certainly pre-planned but it left the veteran no chance to atone.
Turkey’s only change was a show of strength, the dangerous Burak Yilmaz on for Oguzhan Ozyakup.
Northern Ireland’s priorities remained in attack but Norwood managed to test Tolga Zengin after a neat move involving Martin Paterson and Hodson.
Within seconds Turkey hit back, a low cross along the six-yard line turned towards goal by a combination of Aaron Hughes and Erdinc. Mannus reacted well and appeared to get a hand on the ball before it brushed the post.
New York Red Bulls midfielder Jonny Steele was handed a hard-won debut in the 67th minute, with McGinn making way.
Evans and Baird were putting in a fine shift at the back, throwing themselves into countless tackles and blocks to ensure their side did not slip further behind.
Mannus made a sharp, if unconventional, save from Yilmaz – turning the ball behind with his upper arm following a dangerous run.
Northern Ireland’s defiance meant they were still in the game and Davis might have drawn them level when he volleyed Ryan McGivern’s hanging cross sweetly. However, his shot did not make it as far as Zengin, with Martin Paterson unintentionally in the way.
There was a hint that the visitors might nick something in the closing minutes, McGivern looking bright on the left and Davis buzzing around searching for scraps.
But the equaliser did not materialise leaving O’Neill – who left the field in heated conversation with the fourth official – to rue another missed opportunity.