England U18 Schoolboys edge past Northern Ireland in inspiresport Centenary Shield opener
England Under 18 Schoolboys were 2-1 winners over Northern Ireland, thanks to a late Josh Stones strike. The win sees England get their Centenary Shield campaign off to a flyer, whilst Northern Ireland fell to their second defeat in three games.
England started the stronger of the two sides and came close to opening the score after five minutes. Josh Stones rose highest to meet Jack Bates’ corner, however his header sailed over the bar, in what was the first real chance of the game.
England continued to pile on the pressure with Freddie Legg forcing Rian Brown into a smart save. However, moments later England’s early dominance would pay off, as Jack Bates’ through ball found Legg, who this time made no mistake and fired home to give the visitors an early lead.
The game settled down following the goal, and as Northern Ireland grew into the game; clear-cut chances for either side were few and far between. Northern Ireland striker, Jack McFeely had been kept quiet for the first half hour of the game, however he found himself with a yard of space inside the final third. Before the would-be defenders had a chance to close him down, McFeely tried his luck from distance; his long-range strike beating Harvey Keogh and the scores were level.
As the game headed towards half time, both sides struggled for possession. The final chance of the opening period fell again to Stones, who’s tame shot forced Brown into a straightforward save.
As the half-time whistle sounded, the scores were level, a fair reflection of the opening 45 minutes.
Northern Ireland started the brighter of the two sides in the second half and were unlucky not to find themselves in front. England’s wayward ball found it’s way into the path of Lewis Tosh, who’s left footed drive thundered back off the post and the scores remained level.
The second half was similar to the first, with both sides fighting for possession in the middle of the field. The next big chance of the game would again fall to Northern Ireland, as Jack Montgomery found himself in space in the box. His right footed effort was well saved by Keogh, but the alarm bells were ringing for England.
Moments later, the hosts’ best chance of the game fell one again to Tosh, who poked the ball wide following a mistake from Keogh in the England goal. Northern Ireland wouldn’t have it all their own way, a scuffed clearance fell to Joe Paradise, who’s close range effort was deflected wide for another corner; despite the appeals of the England players who claimed handball.
The visitors were causing problems from set pieces and as another corner was floated in, Ashton Fox climbed above everyone else, only for his header to flash wide of the far post.
The game had opened up in the second half and it seemed as though a goal was just around the corner.
With little over 15 minutes to play, Northern Ireland thought they had it, as McFeely fired home; however, the referee spotted a foul in the build up and the scores remained level.
Northern Ireland came close again 5 minutes later. Odhran McCart’s long ball forward caused problems for Keogh, who was relieved to see the ball trickle past his post; after his mistimed jump saw the ball loop over his head.
As the game looked to be heading for a draw, Bailey Hall produced a smart bit of skill before he fizzed a low ball into the path of Stones, who stayed calm and fired the winner in for England. Stones then had the chance to put the game beyond all doubt, as he broke down the right-hand side his shot was saved by Brown to keep the score at 2-1.
That would prove to be the final action of the game, as England got their inspiresport Centenary Shield campaign off to a winning start.
England are back in action next Friday as they face Scotland at Spennymoor Town. Tickets are still available to purchase via Spennymoor’s website. With prices at only £5 for adults and £3 for children, you can join the already 1,500 strong crowd to cheer on the England Schoolboys in their second Centenary Shield fixture of 2022.
Both the highlights and full match are available to watch back via our YouTube channel, ESFA TV
Photo credits: 353 Photography
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.