The Three Lions were desperately unfortunate to lose out in the first of their two games with Georgia.
Georgia 4-3 England
Tuesday 27 November 2007
Tbilisi Sportspalace, Georgia
England's young Lions left the Tbilisi Sportspalace tonight kicking themselves after dominating Georgia yet coming out at the wrong end of a 4-3 result in the first of two fixtures against their hosts.
Graeme Dell's re-shaped team, missing many of the squad who performed so well against Andorra last month, went behind after just three minutes and conceeded again four minutes later.
Having taken time to grasp the importance of ball retention in this fast flowing start to the game, England soon managed to reverse the trend and heap some pressure on their hosts.
Two magnificently worked replies followed from Steve Harrison and Luke Ballinger to level the scores but despite England's relentless pressure, Georgia were gifted a third goal before the break.
A time-out was called by Dell with six minutes left on the clock and five fouls against Georgia resulted in England forcing the vital sixth foul for a ten-metre penalty, which Ballinger blasted straight at the 'keeper.
England, fielding four newly capped players, came out a rejuvenated team where resilience was obviously the key to their teaching and with temperatures at near freezing inside the arena, Eric Pudaloff's rapid distribution from goal allowed England to play at a pace which the visitors struggled to cope with.
However, when a questionable free-kick, much against the balance of play, was deflected into Pudaloff's goal that allowed the hosts some breathing space and was a further setback to England.
England's desire to move the ball around and make Goergia uncomfortable in possession soon paid dividends, as once more the sixth foul was awarded in their favour. This time Ballinger made amends from ten metres, but it came too late to deliver Dell and his players a deserved, yet elusive win.
"Yet again we've come close but inexperience within the group went against us in being able to control the game when it mattered," said Dell, looking towards World Cup qualification next February.
"There were a number of new lads out there tonight and it's an inhospitable place to come to, win a cap and impress but they all did that."
England will undoubtedly be favoured now in tomorrow night's second game which Dell hopes will see better fortunes for his players.
"It's important that the players learn from tonight's game, they are a bright group and I know that they will and that will require implementing our tactical plan with more decisiveness at the start of the game," he added.
"All round I'm pleased, but nonetheless frustrated now that we are getting closer and making noticeable progress."