A goal in each half was enough to see Paul Fairclough's side pick up a win in difficult conditions in Helsinki.
Finland 0-2 England
International Challenge Trophy
Wednesday 14 November 2007
Finnair Stadium, Helsinki
England C proved comfortable winners in Finland on Wednesday night, when goals either side of the break from Cambridge United defender Michael Morrison and Salisbury City striker Matt Tubbs propelled Paul Fairclough’s side to this International Challenge Trophy Group A victory.
On a night when Italy grounded Wales 4-2 on their own soil in the section’s other clash, Fairclough’s collection of primarily Conference players held a fist of excuses to fail in an encounter played on a synthetic surface and Artic-like conditions in Helsinki.
A brutal coastal gust had plummeted the temperature to six degrees below freezing in the Finnish capital – winter arrives during the British autumn in the land that gifted vodka and mobile phones to the world.
Three days of snow flurries had given Fairclough food for contemplation – influential Oxford United destroyer Matthew Day no more than a spectator on the bench after a freak training injury on Monday.
With England fielding six new caps at this level in their starting eleven and with the testing conditions in place, it was a fine performance as the Three Lions stretched their unbeaten run to 14 competitive matches.
Fairclough, also chief at League Two side Barnet, hasn’t tasted a meaningful defeat at this level since May 2004 and the silver-haired Scouser relished the latest triumph with Stuart Lewis, one of the debutants, sparkling in a central midfield role alongside Aldershot schemer Lewis Chambers.
“If I was honest, I would have accepted a draw here. To get the victory is sensational, particularly when you consider that most of my lads wouldn’t have ever seen such difficult conditions,” he said.
“I don’t like picking out individuals for special praise, it’s not my way of course, but you have to say our central midfield was quite outstanding – Chalmers and Lewis were magnificent. Everything good came through that pair.”
Confident England should have been ahead in the sixth minute when Erkan Okay’s clever ball released Tubbs. He rounded Finland keeper Anssi Jaakkola before spearing his angled drive into the side netting.
Yet the visitors grabbed a vital lead in comic-cut fashion on 34 minutes. Russell Penn’s right-sided corner sparked mass confusion in the Finnish box, home defender Joni Aho deflecting against his own bar, before team-mate Mehmet Hetemaj’s panic allowed Morrison to score from two yards.
Ebbsfleet stopper Lance Cronin’s brilliant twisting save thwarted Finland substitute Jarno Parikka six minutes after the hour mark, but this game had been wrapped up on 58 minutes, with Tubbs clinically lifting Penn’s slanted pass into the roof of the net.England:
Lance Cronin (Ebbsfleet United), John Brayford (Burton Albion), Liam Brownhill (Witton Albion), Lewis Chalmers (Aldershot Town), Ronnie Henry (C) (Stevenage Borough), Michael Morrison (Cambridge United), Russell Penn (Kidderminster Harriers), Stuart Lewis (Stevenage Borough), James Constable (Kidderminster Harriers), Matt Tubbs (Salisbury City) (Shaun Harrad (Burton Albion)), Erkan Okay (Histon) (Dan Gleeson (Cambridge United))Subs not used:
Adam Bartlett (Blyth Spartans), Nathaniel Knight-Percival (Histon), Matt Day (Oxford United).