Fletcher treble caps best day of his life
Great Britain 7-0 USA
BT Paralympic Football seven-a-side
1.35pm, Thursday 24 May 2012
Sport City, Athletics Arena, Manchester
GB Paralympic Team record comprehensive win over USA in World Cup George Fletcher’s hat-trick and a brace from Ibrahima Diallo helped Great Britain register a comprehensive victory over USA at the BT Paralympic World Cup seven-a-side tournament.
With less than 100 days to go before Lyndon Lynch’s side compete for a place on the podium at the London Paralympic games, Manchester proved the perfect venue for preparation. Lynch’s side played with authority and composure registering their first victory of the tournament.
As Great Britain picked apart their hapless opponents, Roy Hodgson was taking his first England senior training session next door at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Many of the principles of play the new England manager will desire in Poland and Ukraine were demonstrated by Great Britain’s Paralympians. With controlled possession the hosts’ played long-periods of the game exclusively in opposition territory.
Matt Dimbylow, the senior player in Lynch’s side, set the tone for the contest with his energy and drive. This dynamism, however, was anything but ‘gung-ho’ in its approach. Great Britain lost yesterday’s opening game to an accomplished Brazil side, but showed no hint of anxiety in their approach here; the opening stages defined by patience and control.
With Blair Glynn and Dimbylow starting play from the back and playing through midfield - where the industrious Ibrahima Diallo proved influential - chances for Great Britain were frequent. Dimbylow, registered the home sides’ first effort, his rising shot forcing USA goalkeeper Keith Johnson to palm over.
Dimblylow had two further opportunities to open the scoring before George Fletcher was guilty of heading over from close range. He soon, however, made amends. Fletcher’s opener, owed much to the role of the elusive Diallo, whose role would grow in significance as the afternoon unfolded. Diallo, a powerful midfielder, cut in from the left-hand side before showing awareness to roll the ball to the back-post for Fletcher to slide home from a matter of yards.
With the dynamic pair of Ibrahima Diallo and centre-forward Michael Barker appearing telepathically linked, momentum rarely seized. However, for all Great Britain’s subsequent possession, USA remained in the contest. Wastefulness in front of goal and excellent goalkeeping both played a part.
Barker and Diallo’s link-up play continually proved USA’s undoing. Following a rare attack from Jay Hoffman’s side, the hosts’ demonstrated their ability to play quickly on the break; Barker collecting the ball in his own half before inviting Diallo to drive through midfield and lash passed Keith Johnson in the USA goal. It was a fine finish and Diallo’s second goal of the tournament.
Lynch and Jeff Davis, Great Britain Coach, will have reiterated the importance of clinical finishing during the break and there was marked difference in the second period, Great Britain going on to register a further five goals against deflated opposition. The half-time withdrawal of USA’s impressive stopper, Johnson, clearly contributed.
Johnson’s replacement, Alex Hendricks, was given little chance to shine. Relaxed and confident, Diallo, soon added to his first half strike. Picking the ball up just inside opposition lines, Diallo accelerated through USA’s midfield linking again with Barker, before finishing effectively from distance.
The midfield man was in more subtle mood minutes later repaying the favour for Barker. After another powerful run, Diallo’s delicate footwork brought Hendrick’s scrambling in the USA penalty area. Barker was the grateful recipient of the subsequent short lay-off, finishing clinically from close range.
The quick-fire second-half double deflated USA and it was no surprise further Great Britain goals followed. Substitutes Martin Sinclair and Alistair-Patrick Heselton combined to give GB their fifth before Fletcher showed his attacking prowess going on to plunder two more late goals to complete his hat-trick collection.
The Paralympic World Cup tournament is proving the perfect dress rehearsal for the squad before they compete for a position on the podium at the London Paralympics. A few more days of successful preparation such as this will be welcome along the way.
George Fletcher called the day “one of the best days of my life” after his hat-trick, just hours after joining his England heroes at the Etihad Stadium for their pre Euro 2012 preparations.
The 17-year-old and the rest of his GB teammates were invited by new manager Roy Hodgson to join them at their pre-European Championships training base, in the first open training session, with both teams sharing stories and posing for photos.
Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard both wished them luck with their BT Paralympic World Cup campaign and it appears the support had immediate effect, with the team notching seven unanswered goals against the world’s number eight ranked team.
Fletcher said: “The whole atmosphere today was amazing, the crowd really cheered us on and gave us a boost. They kept shouting for us to give them more and that’s exactly what we went on to do. We met the England team today too and we made full advantage of asking them questions and it got us hyped for today’s game where we performed well.
“Today I scored a hat-trick for GB and met the England football team, this has definitely been one of my greatest days and on top of everything I shook Leighton Baines’ hand so as an Everton fan that was a great opportunity for me.”
1 Craig Connell, 2 Blair Glynn, 3 Josh Beacham, 4 Matt Dimbylow, 7 Michael Barker, 9 George Fletcher, 11 Ibrahima Diallo.
Subs: 5 James Richmond, 6 Alistair-Patrick Heselton, 8 Martin Sinclair, 10 Jonathan Paterson, 13 Billy Thompson
Head Coach: Lyndon Lynch
Goals: Fletcher 22, 55, 60 Diallo 28, 41, Barker 46, Hesleton 50
1 Keith Johnson, 2 Gavin Sibayan, 4 Chad Jones, 6 Christopher Ahrens, 9 Josh McKinney, 11 Tyler Bennett, 16 Rene Renteria
Subs: 3 Moises Morales, 5 Bryce Boarman, 8 Dylan Brown, 14 Jerreme Wade, 18 Alex Hendricks Head Coach: Jay Hoffman
Referee: Ian Clarke
Assistant Referee: David Davies and Garry Polkey
Fourth official: Tom Nield