A tough afternoon in the sun drenched north east as England’s 2019/20 Under 15 schoolgirls came up just short of snatching a draw in their final international fixture against Scotland.
With a large crowd in attendance at Cochrane Park, both teams came out looking to attack and, despite a lack of clear chances in the opening exchanges, there was absolutely no doubt about the commitment from both teams with the feisty challenges that we expect from a match between these two great rivals, at any level of football.
That is not to say that there were no moments of quality. A delectable exchange between Rebecca Ferguson and Megan Sofield for the hosts, almost saw the latter through on goal. Ferguson also missed an opportunity to break the deadlock when a loose clearance from Scotland keeper, Ava Easdon fell at her feet 30 yards from goal – but her attempted lob cleared the bar.
Easdon smothered the ball at the feet of Delphi Cole, as the winger looked through on goal but the visitors also looked dangerous going forward. They broke the deadlock on 18 minutes when a surging run down the right from Eilidh Austin saw her cross for Olivia Potter, who smashed it home from 6 yards out.
This marked a period of pressure from Scotland, who could have added to their lead. However, they were grateful to their skipper, Kirsty MacLean who blocked a shot from Tori Almond, after an exchange of passes with Elle Elkins – just inside the visitor’s box – looked to have created an opening.
Almond’s looping overhead shot was the final chance of the first 40 minutes for the hosts, but her effort fell just wide of the post and Scotland went in with a deserved 1-0 half time lead.
It didn’t take long for Scotland to double their advantage at the start of the second half. Just two minutes had elapsed when Mikayla Wildgoose was adjudged to have fouled Emma Watson as she looked to create some space for shot in the box, and it was Watson herself who converted the spot kick for a 2-0 lead.
England now had a mountain to climb against a tough Scotland defence, Ferguson’s free-kick just avoided all attacking players in the box with Annalisa McCann collecting amongst a mass of white shirts. At the other end, Sophia Poor made a brave save at the feet of Sophia Martin to deny the striker a chance.
England Captain, Wildgoose made amends for her role in the penalty with a double goal line clearance, denying Niamh Noble and then Tiree Burchill after Sophia Poor was left stranded outside her box. Just moments later, Georgia Gray saw her shot from just inside the box whistle past Poor’s far post.
Scotland’s tails were up and they certainly looked in control, but the hosts grabbed a lifeline when Lucy Cooper was adjudged to have been fouled by Madilyn Wilson. Poppy Pritchard cooly slotted home to half the arrears with just over 10 minutes to go.
Pritchard was then denied by McCann after a fantastic through ball from Ferguson and moments later, a cross from Elkins found Sofield who got a shot away but narrowly wide of the far post.
McCann denied Pritchard again before the England number 9 missed a golden chance to level the game, when a cross from Elkins found her unmarked at the back post. However, she put her shot agonisingly wide with the goal at her mercy.
The final chance for England fell to Sofield, who saw her free-kick from the edge of the box sail just over the crossbar, leaving the Scottish players celebrating a deserved victory on the day, albeit after a frantic last 15 minutes from England.
Credit to both sides for a truly entertaining game of football, the parents and schools of the girls on show can be rightly proud of their achievements and the cap presentations that followed the game marked the end of this extended international programme for the girls – we certainly look forward to seeing their progress as footballers and young women in years to come.
A big thank you to ESFA photographer, Garry Griffiths from 353 photography for capturing the game and writing this report. A gallery from the game will be available shortly.