On chilly evening at Deepdale Stadium in Preston, over 6700 fans saw the England
England 5-0 Scotland
On chilly evening at Deepdale Stadium in Preston, over 6700 fans saw the England Women's team rack up a convincing 5-0 over Scotland to end the year on a high.
Captain Faye White, returning after a year out through injury, was the star of the show with two goals, but in truth England were helped enormously by some poor goalkeeping from Scotland.
The first half saw England enjoy the lion's share of possession and create a several good chances. Midfielder Fara Williams came closest with a long-range effort that sailed just over the crossbar, and with 15 minutes gone the dam broke.
A Rachel Yankey corner from the right created havoc in the Scottish penalty area, with the ball desperately scrambled clear. This time it was Jody Handley delivering a wicked cross which goalkeeper Gemma Fay failed to either catch or punch. Amanda Barr was on hand to nod the ball back over the keeper and into the net, via a Scottish head and the crossbar.
The goal clearly boosted England's morale, with Yankey going close soon afterwards, profiting from some slack marking to dart in behind the defence and lob just wide. However, despite a string of half-chances, and the classy linking play of Kelly Smith catching the eye in midfield, Scotland gradually looked the more dangerous team.
They repeatedly broke swiftly on the counterattack through striker Julie Fleeting and Faye White and her defensive partner Mary Phillips had to be alert to stifle the threat. On one occasion, a slip by White almost let in Debbie McWinnie, and the England captain's desperate lunge could have resulted in a penalty. Luckily for the home team, referee Trevor Parkes waved play on.
However, when the second goal came, it was worth waiting for. A sharp turn and cross by Smith on the edge of the box found White on the penalty spot and she lashed the ball home with a sweet left-foot drive. After the game she described it as her best-ever goal, and few who saw it would argue.
A minute before half-time the game was settled as a contest. A clever short-corner routine involving Yankey and Handley saw Fara Williams slip in to flick the ball home at the near post.
After the break England continued where they left off. Another corner from Yankey was touched on by Rachel Unitt and White stole in like a centre-forward to finish from close-range.
However, they then lost their momentum and fluency, surrendering the majority of possession to Scotland with only a mazy run from the fleet-footed Yankey troubling the visitors' defence.
In the end, another goalkeeping error resulted in the last goal four minutes from time. Substitute Kristy Moore curled in an inswinging corner which Claire Johnstone, herself a replacement, could only palm into her own net.
After the match, England coach Hope Powell was left with mixed feelings: "I think the scoreline flattered us.
"I thought Scotland kept the ball better than us for most of the match. Our goals all came from set-pieces, which is something we work extensively on.
"To be honest I don't think we played particularly well, but I suppose I'm pleased that we can play the way we did and still win 5-0."
After a year of mixed results, England are back to winning ways.
From Andrin Cooper in Preston
England: 1 Rachel Brown, 2 Leanne Champ (12 Casey Stoney, 66), 3 Rachel Unitt, 4 Katie Chapman, 5 Faye White (captain), 6 Mary Phillip, 7 Jody Handley (15 Kristy Moore, 56), 8 Fara Williams, 9 Amanda Barr, 10 Kelly Smith, 11 Rachel Yankey
Subs not used: 13 Toni-Anne Wayne, 14 Vicky Exley, 16 Rachel McArthur, 17 Kelly McDougall, 18 Corinne Yorston, 19 Kirsty Pealling, 20 Ellen Maggs, 21 Laura Bassett, 22 Pauline Cope