Gray grabs late winner
Wednesday, 12 September, 2012
Luton striker Andre Gray is the match-winner for England C in Belgium.
Andre Gray was the match-winner as Paul Fairclough's England C Team beat Belgium in Zaventum on Wednesday night.
The Luton Town striker popped up with 14 minutes left to snatch the win for the Three Lions, who needed victory to keep alives any hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the International Challenge Trophy.
Hyde hitman Scott Spencer had earlier given England the lead, but they were pegged back just before half-time when Arne Naudts levelled matters.
But Fairclough’s side pulled off a great victory in their final Group A fixture to give themselves an excellent chance the last-four of the competition.
Arriving in Belgium, England knew that only a victory would suffice, so set about their task in convincing style pinning the Red Devils back in their own half.
They had an good opportunity on three minutes when Josh Gillies broke down the right and crossed for Stephen Brogan. He fired over from the edge of the box.
The early pressure finally paid off, though, when England took the lead from the penalty spot. Gillies, who was having a promising start on his debut, again found space on the right and his centre picked out James Vincent. But a Belgian defender to hauled him to the ground giving the Austrian referee an easy decision. Spencer coolly slotted home.
This appeared to be a wake-up call for the home side who began to push forward in search of an equalising goal and they soon had Preston Edwards in the England goal stretching to reach a curling free-kick.
The home side were impressive when in possession but on 35 minutes a misplaced pass by Sanusi went straight to Gillies on the edge of his own 18 yard box. The Gateshead front-man broke impressively before freeing Spencer who curled a shot from 20 yards just over the bar.
This proved costly as moments later Belgium were on terms in fortuitous circumstances. A free kick from fully 25 yards by Naudts took a wicked deflection off Eddie Oshodi and left Edwards totally stranded.
A nasty looking injury to Keiron Forbes after 41 minutes led to a nine-minute hold-up as the England medical team and paramedics worked on what looked like a serious neck injury before he was stabilised and taken to hospital. Adam Watkins replaced Forbes and half time arrived with the game evenly balanced.
The visitors began the second half in a similar fashion to the first, pushing forward looking for that decisive second goal. Andre Gray, who replaced Brogan at half time, was impressive with his strong running and was linking up well with Spencer up front.
On 67 minutes it was the Luton forward who broke powerfully into the box and squared the ball to Vincent who shot wide when well placed. Belgium were also playing their part in what was an entertaining game with both Carigioni and De Belder going close.
England finally made the breakthrough that their play deserved on 76 minutes when Gray took a clever knock-on from Spencer and made his way into the box. Drawing out the Belgian keeper Defourny, he slotted home for what proved to be the winner.
Despite some late home pressure Fairclough's Lions remained composed to see the game out.
The win puts the side with a foot in the semi finals but their remains an agonising wait until Russia visit Italy in November. If the Italians were to pull off a shock win then they would pip England to claim the knock-out berth.
England C Team
Edwards (Ebbsfleet Utd), Turley (Forest Green Rovers), Thomas (Grimsby Town), Oshodi (Forest Green Rovers), Forbes (Forest Green Rovers) (Watkins (Luton Town) 45), Ainge (Guiseley), Gilles (Gateshead) (Taylor (Luton Town) 90) Vincent (Kidderminster Harriers), Spencer (Hyde) (Wilson (Guiseley) 87), Brogan (Guiseley) (Gray (Luton Town) 46 ), Meikle (Mansfield Town)
Sub Not Used Ormson (Stockport County)
Goals: England - Scott Spencer 14 (pen), Andre Gray 76; Belgium - Arne Naudts 38
England C’s next fixture is a friendly against Albania in Durres on Tuesday 16 October