The England U18 Schoolboys beat Northern Ireland 1-0 at Billericay Town to continue their unbeaten run in the hummel Centenary Shield. England Captain Laiith Fairnie scored his first goal of the tournament from a good set piece and a fantastic turnout saw over 2,000 supporters come out and get behind the boys.
The first real chance of the game fell to Northern Ireland in the second minute, a great ball in from Chapman into a dangerous area found Doherty, who managed to sky it over the bar from inside the 6-yard box.
Northern Ireland applied early pressure to the England goal as another ball floated in towards Doherty, but the ball went out for an England throw. Northern Ireland started the better team and caused England some problems.
England started to grow into the game and began to see more of the ball, but Fraser was fouled in the middle of the Northern Ireland half. Set-piece specialist Fletcher, put an inviting ball into the box as Fairnie ran off his man and got up higher than the Northern Irish goalkeeper, Kerr managing to direct his header towards the open goal. England went 1-0 up against the run of play in the 26th minute.
The England goal came at a good time as they managed to weather the storm well and took some confidence from taking the lead. However, it did not take Northern Ireland long to create another chance as their forward, Brown, forced England goalkeeper Sheik into making a save at his near post.
Good positioning from Sheik saw him intercept a Northern Irish through ball and cleared the ball well.
Some nice feet and a back heel on the edge of the box from Salter created some space behind him for Joisce, who looked to bend his shot into the bottom left corner. Unfortunately, he did not catch it as cleanly as he would have liked as the goalkeeper got down well and made the save. The game remained at 1-0 to England.
England went on to receive a free kick in a similar position to the one they scored from earlier in the game. This time Northern Ireland got the first ball cleared, but only as far as Johnson, who saw his shot narrowly miss the target.
The first half finished 1-0 to England as they remained on course to go back to the top of the hummel Centenary Shield table.
The second half begun with England coming out the better side. A challenge from Wallace caught Johnson late and England had another free kick in a dangerous area. Another great ball in from Fletcher found Farinie, who could not direct his effort towards goal. Fletcher and Farinie seeming, to have a good understanding of each other on dead ball situations, was causing Northern Ireland problems at the back.
Northern Ireland looked to be through on goal, but Bostock covered the ground to make a vital tackle, preventing a goal-scoring opportunity.
England manager, Luke Hampton made his first sub of the game in the 61st minute. Fraser made way for Wodskou – the last time out, Wodskou made a positive impact off the bench winning and scoring the penalty that gave England the lead late on.
Hampton looked at his bench again and replaced Fletcher for Sangha in the centre of the park in the 69th minute.
A big opportunity fell England’s way in the 73rd minute as Wodskou let the ball run to Joisce who saw his shot blocked with some excellent defending from McCloskey. A good ball in from the corner beat everyone in the box as Northern Ireland struggled to clear the ball and concede a second corner. Nothing came from the resulting corner. Leaving a big 15 minutes remaining for England.
England looked to be pushing to extend their lead. An inviting ball in from England right back Smith, saw the goalkeeper scrambling across his goal and making a good punch, taking it off the oncoming Wodksou’s head, the score remained 1-0 England.
Hampton looked to bring fresh legs on one last time as Cocks replaced Salter and Cupid replaced Johnson. 2 minutes plus added time was left on the clock.
With 3 minutes of added time, Northern Ireland threw out everything they could to prevent England from taking away all three points. England dug in deep and defended well as the game finished 1-0.
A vital win and 3 points for the England U18 Schoolboys means that the hummel Centenary Shield will be decided in the final game at Hednesford Town on the 28th of April where England face the other unbeaten side, Wales.
Follow the link here to get your tickets and get behind the boys.
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.