Young Lions back in business
Tuesday, 08 September, 2009
Goals from Nile Ranger and Reece Brown see U19s victorious in Shrewsbury.
Nicholas Veevers at the ProStar Stadium
There must be something in the Shropshire air that the England U19s enjoy, as for the second year in a row they came back from a goal down at half time to collect a first win of the season.
Last September, the Netherlands were the visitors to the ProStar Stadium when a Rhys Murphy brace in the second half proved enough to see them off and this year Nile Ranger and debutant Reece Brown were the scorers with Russia in opposition.
With Noel Blake in charge for his first game as Head Coach, there were a total of 12 debutants on a damp and windy night in Shrewsbury and with the first round of European Championship qualifiers coming up in October, it was an important game for Blake to look at the players he has at his disposal.
He will have learned a lot too, with several impressive individual performances and great character shown by his charges, after finding themselves a goal down at half time.
It could have been different though, as England had the better of the early possession and could have been in front in just the seventh minute. Jacob Mellis and Ranger interchanged neatly on the edge of the area before Mellis pushed a ball through to Nathan Delfouneso. He struck a quick shot at goal, but it was blocked well by goalkeeper Artur Nigmatullin and diverted behind for a corner. From the resulting flag-kick, Nathan Baker headed down to Ranger, but the big striker shot over the bar.
It was Russia who took the lead though, when a ball in midfield was intercepted by Roman Emelyanov. He quickly played the ball out to the left and when Nika Piliev crossed early, forward Irakliy Logua was there at the far post to fire home clinically past Declan Rudd.
England then tested Nigmatullin again in the 16th minute, when Scott Malone clipped a free-kick into the area for Baker, but his header was saved well by the Russian captain.
Malone then came close himself with a direct free-kick, which zipped narrowly over the bar after a foul on Young Lions captain Matthew James on the edge of the area.
With half time just eight minutes away, Logua came close to grabbing his second of the night when he flashed a left-footer over the bar following a neat move on the left.
Ranger then had the ball in the netn the 39th minute, but unfortunately for England, Delfouneso was adjudged to have carried the ball out of play as he ran down the left to cross for his strike partner.
Nigmatullin was then forced into a full stretch save to keep Sanchez Watt’s fierce left-footer out, after the Arsenal player had been set up by Delfouneso on the edge of the area.
Blake chose to make two changes at the break, introducing two debutants in Jordan Clarke and James Wallace to replace Nathan Clyne and Andros Townsend and it appeared to have an almost instantaneous effect, as England drew level less than ten minutes into the second half when Ranger picked a ball up in the box before turning an drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.
Just five minutes later and England were ahead and this time it came from a set-piece. There appeared to be little danger from 30 yards, but when Brown, brother of England star Wes, stepped forward to smash a low shot at goal it emerged through a crowd of players and picked out the bottom corner, with Russian substitute keeper Andrey Zaytsev unsighted.
That goal brought Russia out of their shell a little, but with their outstanding attacker Logua having been substituted seconds before Brown’s goal, their effectiveness was slightly less limited than in the first half.
England still had to be careful though and with seven substitutes by now on the pitch, it was important that communication and team-work came to the fore.
That proved to be the case and the Young Lions comfortably held out to give Blake a winning start to the season.