A tale of two halves
Tuesday, 03 July, 2012
U19s Head Coach settles for a point against Croatia, but knows his side can get better.
By Nicholas Veevers in Tallinn
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake was forced to settle for a point from the opening game of the European Championships in Tallinn, but admits that his side can still improve as the competition goes further.
The Young Lions were forced to come from behind against Croatia, but then ended the game strongly and in the ascendancy before they could find a winning goal.
Prior to that, Croatia had enjoyed the better of the first half with England goalkeeper Sam Johnstone proving his worth with a string of saves to keep Dinko Jelicic's side at bay and it's for that reason why Blake felt a point apiece was a fair outcome to the game.
"I suppose when you come from behind you've got to be reasonably satisfied but overall I thought in the first half, Croatia had the better opportunities to have scored and maybe one or two more," he said.
"It was our first game, after a break, and it's still pre-season for the players so they will get stronger as we go along and in the first game after a break, it often takes a little while to get going.
"But I thought in the second half there was only one team going to win the game and that was us. I was really pleased with our second half performance. We scored a terrific goal, crashed one against the bar and their 'keeper has made two good saves from Afobe.
"So in terms of the chances, you could argue they had the better in the first half and we had the better in the second half.
"But I thought in the way we played in the second half, our passing was really good and as the game wore on we got better and better. We were stronger with the ball and in our passing movements.
"It's a tournament though and the key is not to lose your first game. We're still in the tournament with two games to go so we'll see where that takes us.
"Their 'keeper has made some good saves, and so has ours and that's what they get paid to do! But I was very pleased with our goalkeeper and both of them were on top of their game."
With the result in the other Group B game seeing France despatch of Serbia by 3-0, England now take on a Serbian side who know they will have to win on Friday in order to give themselves a realistic chance of progressing in the competition.
But Blake knows that if England can continue to build upon their second-half performance here and play to their potential, then that will give them every chance of getting the result that they need.
"Serbia have now got to come and win the game on Friday, so we know that will be a tough game and we've got to make sure we do the right things," he added.
"We've been in this situation before. That's what tournament football is all about.
"You want to win the games, but you can't always do that so we'll take the point today and take it from here."