Scott Sinclair helped the Young Lions on their way to a 2-0 win over Croatia in Swindon on Tuesday.
England 2-0 Croatia
International U19 Friendly
7pm, Tuesday 5 February 2008
County Ground, Swindon Town FC
It was an ideal warm-up for England U19s at the County Ground on Tuesday evening, as they overcame Croatia in a friendly ahead of their European Championship qualifiers in May.
With the Young Lions to face opposition from the likes of Serbia, Poland and Belarus in the competition, this was a good test for Brian Eastick’s side in tricky conditions at the County Ground.
A deluge of afternoon rain, coupled with a fierce wind in Wiltshire meant that England had to dig deep and show their steel in order to claim victory with little chance to display some of the more technical skills for either team.
However, a goal in each half from Scott Sinclair and Ciaran Clark proved enough to secure the win and get 2008 off to the best start.
Whilst Croatia didn’t offer too much in attack throughout the game, they did have the first real chance after two minutes, when Sandi Hudorovic was played clear of the defence on the counter attack, but his low angled shot was off target and drifted wide of the far post.
England edged ahead shortly after the 20 minute mark, when Febian Brandy found Sinclair in space on the left. He needed no second invitation to dart between two defenders and into the area, where a quick shuffle of his feet saw him unceremoniously sent crashing to the ground by Matej Bagaric for a penalty to be awarded. Sinclair picked himself up to confidently smash home the spot kick and hand England the lead.
The visitors were unfortunate not to find themselves level in the 28th minute though, when James Tomkins’ pass out of defence was intercepted by Tomislav Sorsa. He laid the ball off to Sandi Krizman, whose fierce right footer beat Jason Steele only to hit the base of the post and bounce to safety.
It then took a fine save from Antonio Jezina at the other end to deny England a second, when he blocked Jack Cork’s low shot with his legs, after good hold-up play from Hal Robson-Kanu in the area.
The lively James Henry was proving a thorn in Croatia’s side on the right flank and just minutes before half time, he beat two men before seeing his centre deflected just past Robson-Kanu in the centre, for what would have been a certain goal to send Eastick’s team in at the break with a two goal advantage.
England made two changes at the interval, with David Button replacing Steele in goal and Andy Carroll taking on the role of centre forward in place of Robson-Kanu.
The conditions were making it difficult for either side to show their true attacking abilities though, with the pitch cutting up more and more as the game progressed.
However, that didn’t stop Henry from trying his luck and a neat bit of skill in the 71st minute saw him break into the box only to see his curling shot from the angle flash narrowly past the post.
If a goal was going to be scored, it would more than likely arrive from a set-piece and that’s exactly what happened in the 74th minute, as England netted their second.
Sinclair’s inswinging free kick from the left caused havoc in the Croatian area and when Tomkins nodded it back into the danger zone at the far post, skipper Clark was there to nod home from close range.
In a rare attack from Croatia, Button was forced into a good save in the 84th minute, when a pacy free kick was whipped in from the left by Ivan Tomecak.
Substitute Fred Sears almost made it 3-0 with five minutes remaining when his pace took him clear of the visitors’ defence, but after rounding Jezina, the angle was just too tight for him and his shot found the side-netting.
England finished the stronger of the sides and could have added a third, with Carroll, Sears and Kieran Gibbs all seeing attempts just off target.
After three minutes of added time though, proceedings were brought to an end in what will be a pleasing win for Eastick and his coaching staff.
England: Jason Steele (David Button, 46), Curtis Obeng, Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork, James Tomkins, Ciaran Clark ©, James Henry (Ed Upson, 79) Kieran Gibbs, Hal Robson-Kanu (Andy Carroll, 46), Febian Brandy, (Fred Sears, 74) Scott Sinclair.
Subs not used: Krystian Pearce, Junior Stanislas, Mark Beevers.
Goals: Sinclair 22 (pen), Clark 74
Croatia: Antonio Jezina, Adam Susic, Alen Simunic, Matej Bagaric (Ivan Coric, 81), Dejan Lovren ©, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Tomecak, Mateo Poljak (Damir Kreilach, 63) Sandi Krizman, Tomislav Sorsa, Sandi Hudorovic (Tomislav Havojic, 73)
Subs not used: Sasa Dreven, Ivan Butorac.
Referee: Gavin Ward