England C beat the Tallinn chill to reach the International Challenge Trophy final.
Paul Fairclough’s Three Lions got the win they needed in Estonia with goals from Elliott Whitehouse and Jamal Lowe to guarantee runners-up spot in the group and set up a showdown with Slovakia next summer.
All the goals came in a crazy six-minute spell as England took the lead, lost it, and then went ahead again, all in the early stages.
Estonia U23s 1-2 England CInternational Challenge Trophy
Tuesday 15 November 2016
A Le Coq Arena, Tallinn
The victory was nothing less than they deserved, for a performance full of spirit and desire in minus temperatures and with snow tumbling down at the final whistle.
Having seen Emirates FA Cup replays rule out seven of his initial 16-man squad, Fairclough had to make two late replacements on Saturday night.
Lincoln City duo Sam Habergham and Sean Raggett picked up injuries in their 3-3 draw with Aldershot last Saturday.
Shots’ Cheye Alexander and Woking defender Jake Caprice got the call and met up with the squad before flying out on Sunday.
Fairclough handed four players their England C debut from the start – Aldershot’s Nick Arnold, Forest Green defender Ethan Pinnock, AFC Fylde’s highly-rated attacker James Hardy and Hampton & Richmond’s Jamal Lowe, who will join League Two side Portsmouth in the New Year.
In all, six of the starting XI played against Slovakia in the summer as non-League’s Three Lions went down 4-3 to a heartbreaking 97th-minute strike.
It meant, with the 2-0 win against Ukraine in their International Challenge Trophy opener last season, England knew a point would be enough to secure their spot in the final.
Estonia needed to win to get there themselves, but they were behind inside seven minutes as England started brightly.
Hardy clipped a great cross to the far post where Whitehouse arrived on cue to power Fairclough’s side ahead.
The England C squad and staff for the International Challenge Trophy game in Estonia
It was a great start, but Estonia reacted. Woking stopper Brandon Hall made two good blocks but eventually the ball came out to Pavel Domov, who hammered home.
Fairclough hailed his side’s character as they found an instant reply, as just three minutes later they were back in front.
Once again, Hardy was involved as he slipped the ball through to Lowe, who lifted a shot over the keeper.
Estonia had nine players with full international caps, but England were more than equal – even if Hall made a fantastic fingertip save from Andreas Raudsepp, although it was given as a goal-kick.
England would have expected the Alamo, but they almost went further in front when Lowe went close before Bromley defender Jack Holland was denied by an instinctive block, while Rauno Sappinen headed over a good chance at the other end.
But, other than a sharp Hall save at the end, England defended and grafted all over the pitch to reach another ICT final. A trip to Slovakia awaits.
England C: Brandon Hall, Nick Arnold, Jack Holland, Ethan Pinnock, Dan Wishart, Jake Gallagher, Alex Woodyard, Kingsley James, Elliott Whitehouse (Kieffer Moore 90), Jamal Lowe (Cheye Alexander 86), James Hardy (Blair Turgott 68)
Subs not used: Jake Caprice, James Montgomery
Goals: Whitehouse 7, Lowe 13