A warm afternoon in Newcastle saw England Schoolboys play their final fixture of a disrupted campaign as they put on a great show of attacking football to defeat Harrogate Town Youth Academy at Longbenton.
The visitors were playing their first fixture as an academy side with the League Two club having only recently set up their development programme and the early exchanges were fairly even as both sides looked to find a foothold in a game, scheduled for three periods of 30 minutes.
The hosts were playing together for the first time in over a year and were missing a number of players from the original squad selected for the Centenary Shield campaign, but those who were available soon hit their stride.
Taylor Richardson saw a shot saved by the visiting keeper but the resulting corner saw Charlie Dickerson head home for a 1-0 lead, a pinpoint delivery from Reece Wylie seeing the defender with a free header 6 yards out.
England had a great chance to double their lead from the spot after Wylie was bundled over in the six yard box to end a surging run down the right. However, skipper Carter Lycett’s spot kick didn’t trouble the keeper or the goal frame as it sailed over the bar.
The lead was doubled by Kenny Bernal shortly after though, a lovely through ball from Richardson allowed the midfielder to skip round Harvey Giles and fire into an empty net.
Harrogate were by no means out of the game and pulled a goal back with their first ever academy goal from Finn O’Boyle, slotting under Cameron Pike after a swift counter attack that began with an England corner just 20 seconds earlier.
Boyle saw a fierce shot flash wide of Pike’s far post before Richardson went close to scoring a third for the hosts, shooting just wide when through on goal after a pinpoint pass from the energetic Wylie.
Moments later though he did find the net, a long range looping volley over the keeper making it 3-1 shortly before Pike was forced into a finger tip save to deny Joe Dixon from long range and prevent Harrogate pulling a goal back.
Ollie Waddison fired home from the edge of the box to make it 4-1 with a couple of minutes left in the second period, battling to win the ball back after seeing his shot saved by the keeper before tip toeing along the edge of the box and firing into the far corner.
In true symmetry England bagged another two goals in the final period of the game with Richardson grabbing his second volleyed goal after a lovely through ball from Ethan Warne to make it 5-1 before Ben Reay, Ethan Warne and David Pereira combined to put Waddison through to complete the 6-1 scoreline in their final outing together.
Credit to both teams for putting on a display full of energy in very warm conditions, England played some excellent football at times and were always dangerous going forward but the visitors from Harrogate certainly had their moments to keep the game close and will rightly take plenty of positives from their first fixture together as a squad.
The cap presentations signalled the end of a long international campaign for the lads, an unusual one in the current circumstances but parents and schools can certainly take pride in the achievements of this group of young men – we look forward to seeing their progress as they move into the next stages of their careers and wish them all good luck in whichever path they take.
A big thank you to our photographer Garry Griffiths from 353 photography for capturing the game and writing this report. A gallery from the game will be available shortly.
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.