Kenny Swain's U16s get Victory Shield campaign off to a winning start at Yeovil.
Sky Sports Victory Shield
7.40pm, Thursday 15 October 2009
Huish Park, Yeovil Town FC
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A Zak Ansah header four minutes from time gave England a winning start to their Victory Shield campaign, as his goal saw off a spirited display from Wales at Huish Park.
Ansah met an Alex Henshall cross at the near post and powered his downward header beyond the helpless Luke Chambers. It was fitting that two substitutes had a hand in the goal as the second-half introduction of Henshall, Ansah and Nathan Redmond swung the game in England’s favour after a confident opening 40 minutes from the visitors.
It was a result that had echoes of last season’s encounter when, on that occasion, a late goal from Benik Afobe was all that separated the sides.
As England Head Coach, Kenny Swain, had predicted in his programme notes both sides began the match in committed fashion, personified by a crunching tackle from England’s Sam Magri on George Higgins, after just four minutes. A frenetic opening period ensued with all 22 players eager to impress, on what was, for many, their maiden international appearance.
England began the game by passing the ball around the back and through midfield and looked assured when in possession. So too did Wales, who were initially more direct in their approach with Will Roberts registering the first two efforts of the match. On ten minutes he picked the ball up just outside the England box and fired narrowly wide. The second shot, five minutes later, was virtually identical both in execution and end result.
Indeed, long shots were Wales’ favoured route to goal in the first-half with Higgins having two efforts himself, the first forcing Jordan Pickford into the first save of the match as the England stopper tipped the ball around the post.
The home side had to wait until the 19th minute to register an effort on goal and it came from Blackburn’s Robbie Cotton. Magri had laid the ball off to him from a corner, but Cotton’s effort took a deflection which allowed Chambers to gather comfortably.
The Welsh forwards had pace in abundance and when Roberts' through-ball released James Loveridge, he bore down on Pickford’s goal with menace. Pickford forced him wide, giving Tyler Blackett time to make a challenge resulting in Loveridge shooting into the side netting.
Man of the Match, Matthias Fanimo, enjoying his second Victory Shield campaign, looked particularly bright in the opening 40 minutes and he provided Swain’s charges with an effective outlet upfront. Midway through the half, after expertly bringing a high ball under control, he cut in from the right and unleashed a venomous drive from 20 yards which flashed wide. With Wales hitherto on top, this effort sparked England into life and they soon grew into the game and returned to the incisive passing of the opening moments.
This almost paid dividends with the half-time whistle approaching when the ball found its way to Adil Nabi inside the Wales area. With his back to goal, ignoring the presence of Adam Henley, he turned smartly and chipped the ball towards the far corner, but Chambers was equal to it and palmed the ball on to the post to keep the scores level going into the break.
Swain made two changes at half-time with midfielders, Henshall and Redmond replacing Blackett and Nabi. As a result, England skipper, Jordan Cousins, dropped back into defence and the substitutions almost changed the game immediately as Henshall cut in from the left and tested Chambers from the edge of the area.
With two direct, pacy wingers now on the field, The Three Lions seemed galvanised and they began the second half as they had ended the first, with far more purpose. Henshall then provided an inviting cross for Hallam Hope in the 52nd minute, but the young Evertonian couldn’t quite turn the ball home. It was to be Hope’s last contribution of the match as he was replaced by Ansah shortly after.
Wales reminded England that they were still in the game when Leon Newell powered a header goalwards, but Pickford was not to be beaten and he clawed the ball to safety. It would turn out to be an important save.
The number of second-half substitutions disrupted the game’s fluency and it was seemingly petering towards its conclusion. That was until England were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box on 75 minutes. Redford stepped up and curled the kick towards the top corner, but Chambers managed to tip the ball on to the crossbar. The rebound was worked back out to the right wing where Henshall picked up possession and sent in a delicious cross which Ansah directed home at the near post.
It was a goal that England’s second-half play had merited, though Wales will feel hard done by having played so well in the first. Ansah might even have had a second in the closing minutes when he was released by Luke Hendrie, but Chambers foiled the Arsenal forward at the near post.
Having weathered an early storm of Wales pressure, England eventually grew into the game and the introduction of Henshall and Redmond provided a platform on which to wrestle back the momentum. Swain will now hope England can carry that momentum into their second Victory Shield match, against Northern Ireland on 5 November.
1 Jordan Pickford, 2 Luke Hendrie, 3 Callum McFadzean (16 Anthony Callaghan, 66), 4 Jordan Cousins (C), 5 Sam Magri, 6 Tyler Blackett (17 Alex Henshall, 41), 7 Matthias Fanimo, 8 Robbie Cotton, 9 Hallam Hope (12 Zak Ansah, 60), 10 Adil Nabi (14 Nathan Redmond, 41), 11 Jake Caskey (15 Adam Jackson, 71)
Substitutes not used
13 Bradley Watkins, 18 Curtis Edwards
Head Coach Kenny Swain
1 Luke Chambers, 2 Adam Henley, 3 Jordan Holt, 4 Alex Nicholson, 5 Will James (C), 6 Elliot Scotcher, 7 James Loveridge, 8 George Higgins (14 Theo Wharton, 57), 9 Jack Simmons (15 Callum Holden, 68), 10 Leon Newell, 11 Will Roberts (16 Declan John, 57)
Substitutes not used
12 Christian Dibble, 13 Josh Pike, 17 Lewis Blackmore, 18 Dalton Harris
Technical Director Osian Roberts
Referee Darren Sheldrake
Assistant Referees Mark Russell and Lee Collins
Fourth Official Kevin Johnson