England Under 18 Schoolboys had to settle for a point as they played out a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland at the Silverlake Stadium. In what was a real game of two halves, England could count themselves unlucky to not have taken all three points, after a flurry of chances late on in the game.
Ireland started the stronger of the two sides and had the first chance of the game, after Niko Nenonen-Millar gave possession away as he tried to play the ball back to Harvey Keogh. Lennon Gill looked to take advantage; his shot that followed forced a smart save from Keogh in the England goal. The early Irish pressure continued as Charlie O’Brien’s header flashed narrowly over the crossbar.
England’s first chance came after 20 minutes. After a corner was whipped in, Ashton Fox rose higher than anyone else, only to see his header fizz just past the far post. The chance didn’t shift the momentum England’s way, as another chance fell Irelands way. After a corner was only half cleared, the ball fell kindly to Tadhg Walsh, who’s low effort went wide of the upright and the scores remained level.
As the clock ticked towards half time, England would be the happier of the two sides, should the game remain goalless. However, a minute into added time, a long ball found Gill once again. Following some neat footwork, the striker created an opening. His left footed drive beat Keogh to give Ireland a well-deserved the lead going into the break.
Both teams opted to make changes at the break, with England looking to Bailey Hall to add some firepower upfront. The second half started entirely differently to the first, with England dominating possession and Jack Bates caused Ireland a few problems from set pieces.
As the hour mark approached, England made their second change of the evening as Sam Johnson, who was only called up to the England squad last night, came on in place of Nenonen-Millar. Johnson’s impact was almost instant as he played a perfectly weighted through ball to Hall. Hall kept his cool as he found himself one on one with Reece Byrne in the Ireland goal, his left footed effort found the bottom corner and the hosts were level.
Ireland looked to hit back, as Jack Beerling gave the ball away inside his own half, Ireland played the ball into Michael Raggett. His powerful effort stung the palms of Keogh, who did well to keep the score at 1-1.
As the game entered its last 15 minutes, both sides seemed to tire as they went in search of a winner. A low ball into the box looked to fall into the path of Alfie Dean, but the forward couldn’t connect with the ball and the chance went begging. Seconds later Hall found himself with his back to goal, his resulting scuffed effort didn’t trouble Byrne in between the Irish sticks.
England would continue to pile on the pressure as Jeevan Purewal whipped a ball into the box, but again it didn’t find a white shirt. The hosts wouldn’t have it all their own way though as Gill headed a corner narrowly over the crossbar from a corner. With seconds remaining a goalmouth scramble saw the ball drop to Purewal, who’s half volley was cleared off of the line. It would prove to be the last chance of the game and the points were shared.
Watch the match highlights here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Itgs_jO8g8c
England are back in action on Thursday 14th April when they travel to Wales for their final inspiresport Centenary Shield fixture this season.
Photo credits: 353 Photography
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.