Swain's boys on the charge
Wednesday, 23 March, 2011
Comfortable victory over Northern Ireland in Victory Shield.
By James Marshall in Ballymena
It was three and easy for England as they put themselves in prime position to retain the Victory Shield with a victory over Northern Ireland in Ballymena.
The fixture between the two sides is steeped in history, with legends of the game such as ‘Busby Babe’ Duncan Edwards and Michael Owen representing England. Edwards, who tragically died in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 aged 21, went on to become England's youngest post-War senior international aged 18. Ironically this record stood until Michael Owen preceded him in 1998.
The ‘stars of the future’ lived up to these expectations too, with a comfortable 3-0 win in Belfast.
After a tense first ten minutes by both teams, it was England who started the brightest, retaining possession down the left side, with neat passing football which ended in Adam Campbell hitting the post with a well struck shot.
Northern Ireland put in some robust challenges in the first-half on Kenny Swain’s young lions, but the schoolboys kept their discipline throughout the game with a mature performance beyond their years.
With a first half of very few chances, Devante Cole, son of Andy, did well down the right side but his shot trickled into the hands of Chris Johns in the Northern Ireland goal.
A compact Northern Irish defence was kept busy by Cole as he made a nuisance of himself, playing the lone striker brilliantly. Cole latched onto every ball played up to him and got his just rewards on the stroke of half-time. He played a neat one-two with Jack Jebb and calmly slotted the ball home, something that his watching father would have been proud of.
England started the second half as they ended the first, with substitute Chuba Akpom coming close to extending their league. However it was his Arsenal team-mate Jebb who put England two up, striking a low free kick from outside the box to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and make it look easy on 53 minutes.
Coming on as a second half substitute, Akpom was a constant threat and provided England with a third, a dazzling run down the left wing by the youngster ended in Joe Rothwell tapping the ball into the net.
England will play Scotland at Morecambe in their final Victory Shield match.