England held by Italy
Tuesday, 28 February, 2012
Paul Fairclough's side net late equaliser in Fleetwood.
By Mike Appleby at Highbury Stadium
England C got their International Challenge Trophy campaign off to satisfactory start with a 1-1 draw against Italy in an exciting match played before an almost full house at Fleetwood Town’s impressive Highbury Stadium.
An enthusiastic crowd of 4,628 saw Federico Angiulli put the visitors ahead three minutes into the second half before Luton Town’s Adam Watkins scored an equaliser deep into stoppage-time to give a just-reward for his side’s overall efforts.
It was clearly a proud night for Fleetwood as they hosted their first ever International fixture, made even more so with two of the “Cod Army” wearing England shirts. Danny Rose captained the side with Junior Brown, called into the squad on Saturday, making his England C debut.
The game began at a good pace with Brown, despite a lack of match practice, catching the eye in his defensive role. It was the Italians, however, that almost snatched the lead with Fabio Maduki smashing a long range effort against the post after 15 minutes. This triggered an exciting period of fast open play with the action switching from end to end, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Italian keeper Alberto Brignoli had to be alert to stop a good effort from Rose. England always looked dangerous going forward with wide men Matty Blair and Michael Coulson causing problems down both flanks and an excellent passing movement involving both men almost led to Grimsby Town’s Coulson putting the home side ahead. Half-time arrived with both sides receiving generous applause as they left the pitch. The only surprise from the opening 45 minutes was that the score sheet was blank.
The goal that the game deserved arrived three minutes after the restart and what a goal it was. The ball was played out to the Italian left to Anguilli who cut inside and sent a curling shot with the outside of his boot over the defence and in off the underside of the bar giving Tamworth’s Jonathan Hedge no chance in the home goal.
This set-back did not deter the home side who came back strongly with some good periods of passing play which have become the hallmark of Paul Fairclough’s sides over the years and it was after one such movement that Scott Spencer, the only player from outside the Conference National division, went close on 55 minutes.
With the clock ticking, Fairclough made four changes to the side as they searched for the equaliser that their play deserved but just as it looked as if their efforts would come to nothing, Watkins pooped up in the third minute of stoppage time to grab a dramatic last gasp goal much to the delight of his team-mates and the home crowd.
There was little time for any further action and both sides received a standing ovation at the end of what had been an excellent game played in an excellent spirit and well controlled by Turkish referee Mete Kalkavan.
Following the game, Fairclough was pleased with the effort and commitment of his Young Lions, saying: “It was important that we got something out of this game. We more than matched the Italians for skill and effort. I thought our defence stayed strong throughout the game and our wide men caused problems going forward.
"Overall, a good performance. We now have two difficult away ties in Russia and Belgium in our qualification group and we must maintain this effort and commitment throughout the competition if we want to reach the semi finals next year.”
England: Jonathan Hedge (Tamworth), Kevin Roberts (Cambridge United), Junior Brown (Fleetwood Town), Jamie Turley (Forest Green Rovers), Kenny Davis (Braintree Town), Edward Oshodi (Forest Green Rovers), Michael Coulson (Grimsby Town), Kieron Forbes (Forest Green Rovers) (Adam Watkins, Luton Town 75), Scott Spencer (Hyde) (Adam Boyes, Barrow 69), Danny Rose (Fleetwood Town) (Ashley Chambers, York City 69), Matty Blair (York City) (Andy Owens, Southport 75).
30 May - Friendly fixture to be confirmed
4 June – Russia (away) – ICT Group A