Paul Fairclough heaped praise on his England C team, after their bid to land the International Challenge Trophy ended in a 4-0 defeat to Slovakia at the Ziar nad Hronon stadium.
After an encouraging start, the Three Lions’ hopes were left in tatters after a crazy five-minute spell at the end of the first half which saw Slovakia score the opener through the lively Filip Orsula and miss a penalty before England full-back Andrew Cartwright was sent off for a challenge on David Ivan.
- International Challenge Trophy Final
- Wednesday 8 November
- Ziar nad Hronon Stadium, Slovakia
- By Jon Couch
A goal inside 56 seconds of the re-start from Ivan compounded the misery before further goals from Michal Fasko and Christian Herc ended the tie as a contest.
But Fairclough’s men still had one more blow to endure – Alex Wynter’s last-minute glancing header from Jack Powell’s free-kick was chalked off for offside. It was one of those days.
“I’m very proud of the lads,” Fairclough reflected.
“Slovakia are a very technical side, very skilful, very strong, very powerful, but for 30-35 minutes there was not a great deal in it. And in actual fact, the stats showed we probably got into their box more than they did ours and got in more shots than them.
“I can’t fault any of the players for their commitment. That’s probably the most prepared we have ever been for a football pitch. You just can’t legislate for things like that.”
With players representing the likes of Benfica, Sampdoria and Lille in their ranks, Slovakia had quality in abundance and the final whistle was greeted in raptures by the capacity crowd, while the warm appreciation for the Three Lions from the home fans heralded a brave display. Sadly for Fairclough and his squad, it proved a step too far.
England: Smith (Hall 82); Cartwright, Ferguson, John, Wynter, Gallagher (Powell 67), Barratt (Johnson 46), Croasdale, Ferrier, Rees (Ward 46), Okenabirhie (Afolayan 76).