Not quite Turkish delight, but England show good signs with confident displays
By Matt Hardy
England’s Futsal squad continued their preparation for the Main Qualifying Round of the 2014 UEFA Futsal Euros, by welcoming the 2012 semi-finalists Turkey this weekend.
Despite two narrow defeats, Pete Sturgess’ squad put in hardworking and encouraging displays, threatening Turkey in both fixtures and playing with confidence and belief.
It was England’s first fixture since the successful Preliminary Round qualifiers in Lithuania last month and there was a level of excitement around the camp as they prepared for Friday’s first encounter.
With Ben Mortlock, Alex Campana, Dave Jennings and Guillermo Wallace all absent, Sturgess made four changes to his squad.
Loughborough captain Neil Morgan and Helvecia’s Byron Andrew came back into the 14, with Alfee Robbins and Manchester’s Ross Bond included for the first time, the latter making his international bow in the second half of Friday’s game.
With Turkey part of the same qualifying group next month, it was a fantastic opportunity for Sturgess and his coaching team to weigh up their opponents in front of a large Sporthouse crowd on Friday.
Goals from Nick Colley and Stuart Cook couldn’t prevent a Cem Keskin insired Turkey from winning 5-2 winners, but there were encouraging signs.
After the highs of qualification, England were disappointed and many were keen to see how Sturgess’ troops would respond in Saturday afternoon’s second encounter.
And respond they did.
A marvellous display, full of energy and drive saw the home side take the game to their more established visitors. They were industrious, creative and had they taken any one of their fine chances, they could have entered half time with a two or three goal lead.
In the end, a crazy second period minute saw the Turks strike twice, first through Cicek and then through chief tormentor Keskin.
The visitors then defended well to withstand the heavy English onslaught and deny the home side a result that their impressive performance deserved.
Sturgess said: “It was a good weekend and it gave us a chance to see what the next level holds.
“The performances were encouraging and we all want more.
“We have a great team environment and that will help this squad to perform at the next level.
“They have a great attitude and commitment to step up to whatever challenge they face.”
England will continue their preparation with a hotly anticipated clash with Wales at Hereford’s Point4 on Sunday 17 March, before they come together for their first assault of the Main Qualifying Round at the end of the month.