Another excellent test for the England U18 Schoolboys in their final warm-up fixture before their inspiresport Centenary Shield campaign kicks off on Saturday 25th March.
The magnificent Shrewsbury School was the venue and the Independent Schools FA representative side were the opponents, in a game that was full of attacking intent from the kick-off.
ISFA were the first to threaten with pressure around the England goalmouth but, ultimately, no clear cut chances to threaten Harvey Keogh’s goal.
Almost inevitably the opening goal was scored by Josh Stones for England.A well worked moved started on the left with Noah Carney spreading the ball right to Freddie Legg who supplied a pass down the line for Matty Dopson to cross into the box with Stones stooping to head past the ISFA keeper for a 10th minute lead.
The lead was almost doubled moments later as the ISFA goal led a charmed life with the ball somehow staying out of the net.
Another move down the right saw Legg’s cross just nicked away from Carney 8 yards out but the loose ball fell to Jack Bates whose shot was headed off the line, with Legg’s follow up saved and the ball eventually cleared to safety.
Moments later, Stones crossed for Legg who steered the ball back across the 6 yard box, but the ISFA keeper dived to intercept before Carney would almost have certainly prodded the ball home for a second goal.
The half continued in the same vein with half chances at either end, the ISFA side failing to take advantage of a number of set pieces and Keogh in the England goal making a save from close range before collecting the subsequent corner to quash another attack.
Jack Bates curled a dangerous free-kick into the home penalty area and it somehow avoided the glut of players in the 6 yard box. Soon after Bates saw a free-kick sail over the wall and crossbar from 25 yards out.
Just before the break England doubled their lead as Stones made space to shoot low past the keeper for a 2-0 half time lead.
Numerous changes at the start of the second half certainly disrupted England’s rhythm, as did the early ISFA goal had them back in the game just couple of minutes into the half.
Both Bailey Hall and Thomas Gruzewski put crosses into the box from either flank but England failed to restore the 2 goal cushion and paid the price when ISFA drew level with a shot into the top corner from just inside the box.
Again the chances were thin on the ground despite plenty of promise in the middle third of the park but England appeared to have snatched a late win when a free-kick into the box caused mayhem, Stones saw his shot blocked but the ball fell into the path of Hugh Cullum who smashed the ball into the net from close range.
ISFA were not to be denied though and grabbed a late equaliser with a sequence of head tennis inside the box ending with a close range header into the net for a 3-3 draw, preserved by a late fingertip save from Josh Mazfari in the England goal as the clock ticked down.
A fair result in the end and a big thank you to ISFA and Shrewsbury School for hosting as well as to all those who came to support the teams.
Next up for England is the opening Centenary Shield game in Belfast against Northern Ireland in just under 3 weeks time which marks the first of their four successive Friday night international fixtures.
Match report and photos supplied by 353 Photography
To purchase any photos from the game, please contact ThreeFiveThree Photography. For any media enquiries please contact Jacob Blades on Jacob.Blades@schoolsfa.com.
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.