Paul Fairclough's team slipped to their first defeat since 2004 against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Tuesday.
Bosnia & Herzegovina A2 6-2 England C
The Grbavica Stadium, Sarajevo,
4.30pm, Tuesday 16 September 2008
England C’s impressive unbeaten run came to an abrupt end on a wet Sarajevo afternoon when they went down 6-2 to an experienced Bosnia Herzegovina A team.
The home side, with an average age of 28, were superior to an England side whose ages averaged 22, but the match was a valuable exercise in preparation for November’s International Challenge Trophy Group A decider in Italy. As reported earlier, preparations for the game had been far from ideal.
The 24 hour delay in arriving in the Bosnian capital resulted in the side losing two training sessions which for a relatively new group of players would have been invaluable. Added to this, following an accidental clash between Darran Kempson and Adam Bartlett in the early stages of the only training session possible, both players were injured and not able to take any part in the game.
The Bosnians took the lead after six minutes when, following a swift passing movement, the ball fell to Mikelini who fired a powerful shot from 20 yards past Lance Cronin in the England goal.
The visitors did not let this early setback unsettle them and for the next 20 minutes they more than matched their more experienced opponents. On 10 minutes, Luke Moore scuffed a shot in front of goal when well placed following a good run and cross by Richard Brodie.
Eight minutes later Anton Robinson also missed a good opportunity following good work by Nathan Arnold and Moore. This good work counted for nothing, however, when the home side scored three goals in eight minutes to destroy any chance of Paul Fairclough’s side getting anything out of the game.
Firstly, on 25 minutes a careless pass on the edge of his area by Luke Foster gave the ball to Selimović who swiftly squared the ball to Žižović who fired home a superb shot from 25 yards which again gave Cronin no chance.
On 30 minutes the home side went three up when the white shirted defence backed off and allowed Savić an unchallenged run into the box where he coolly placed the ball wide of Cronin.
Three minutes later, with England in disarray, Bosnia went four up when Žižović crossed from the left for Savić to head home from close range. Just over half an hour gone and England had conceded more goals than they had in the previous three seasons! Half time arrived with no further goals. An interesting fact was that England had the bulk of the possession but found themselves four goals down.
England began the second half again controlling play and pushing the home side back into their 18 yard area. On 55 minutes, Fairclough made his first substitutions with Jamie Stevens replacing Mark Wright and Shaun Harrad replacing Richard Brodie and within two minutes the visitors had pulled a goal back. Moore chased a long ball from Foster and his determination forced him past his marker before he rounded Nurković in the home goal to slide the ball into the empty net.
On the hour mark, Stefan Bailey replaced Jonathan D’Laryea and with England in control they pulled another goal back on 62 minutes when Matt Day latched on to a loose ball and pushed forward before unleashing an stoppable drive from 30 yards which gave Nurković no chance.
Could the impossible happen? The visitors continued to push the hosts all the way, firstly Moore, who had worked hard up front all game, had a shot cleared off the line and then the same player just failed to connect with a Harrad cross when again well placed.
However all the effort counted for nothing when on 75 minutes the Bosnians scored a very fortunate fifth goal when Savić took a quick free kick about 15 yards from where the offence took place. The ball was clearly moving as he took the kick but the referee allowed play to continue and the ball was played to Bekrić whose shot took a deflection off Jamie Smith and looped over Cronin into the net.
This setback clearly took the edge off the visitors who never regained the impetus and the Bosnians seemed content to keep control of the ball and play out time. They then wrapped up victory with a sixth in the 89th minute when Žižović picked up a deep cross and fired past Cronin from the edge of the six yard box.
An entertaining game and a worthwhile exercise for the England management team as they seek to rebuild the side following promotions and transfers.
Manager Paul Fairclough was philosophical following the game, saying: “The Bosnians were the strongest side that we have played since I became manager.
“They were big, strong and technically very good. I could mention the lack of preparation following our travel delays but it wouldn’t alter the fact that we were beaten by a better team.
“At half-time I told the players to forget about the first half and go out and win the second half for me, but more importantly for themselves and at one point, I though that they might well do it.
“The fact is that we needed a game prior to playing Italy in November. We lost players due to promotions and others due to transfers and injuries. This match has given myself and the staff the opportunity to look at a few new players. I would rather we have this glitch here in Sarajevo than in Italy.”England:
Lance Cronin, Matt Day, Mark Wright (Jamie Stevens, 55) Luke Foster, Anton Robinson, James Smith (c), Nathan Arnold, Jonathan D’Laryea (Stephen Bailey 59), Richard Brodie (Shaun Harrad, 55), Luke Moore, Mitchell Cole.Subs not used:
Adam Bartlett, Darran Kempson.