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Archived News from May 2002

15th May 2002 16:31

Unibond Four Nations, England 1 - Wales 1

The UniBond Four Nations Tournament kicked off last night at Boston United.

At York Street, a ground that in August will play host to League Football, the supporters who came out on a sunny early Summer's evening had to wait for an injury-time equaliser from local hero Simon Weatherstone to see the England National Game XI gain a point against Tommi Morgan's Welsh side. The game started quietly with both teams content to play the ball around, probing for space, but not wanting to give an early goal away. Junior McDougald was up against his Dagenham & Redbridge colleague Tony Roberts in the Welsh goal, and was partnered by Havant & Waterlooville's James Taylor who finished joint top scorer in the Dr Martens Premier Division this season with 27 goals.

Manager John Owens elected to keep to his tried and trusted formation that saw Neil Moore, Jason Goodliffe and Tim Ryan as a back three, with Simon Wormull and Aaron Webster acting as wing-backs. It was from this source once more that the early England attacks came from, and on 24 minutes, after a corner had only been partially cleared by the Welsh defence, Burton's Webster narrowly headed over a pinpoint cross from Wormull on England's right flank. It was Webster himself two minutes later who made ground down the left after some neat interplay with Barnet's Mark Gower. After outpacing Mike Flynn on the left, Webster swung over an inviting cross across the edge of the six-yard box, which just eluded the onrushing McDougald. For the time time in the match, Owens' men were exerting considerable pressure on the Welsh rearguard, and after a Roddis shot from 25 yards was easily claimed by Roberts, James Taylor just failed to get on the edge of another Wormull cross on 28 minutes. Five minutes later, and Wayne Brown, the Chester City goalkeeper was called into action for the first time. A neat passing move from the Welsh saw left-back Gary Lloyd advance, and then slide a ball through to the prolific Bangor City striker Marc Lloyd-Williams on the left of the England area. He hit his short hard and low but Brown was equal to the task and made a vital block at his near post.

Brown needed to again be on his toes after thirty-five minutes when a 25 yard strike from Mike Flynn caught the heels of Nick Roddis, forcing the England 'keeper into a scrambling save across his goal to earn the Welsh a corner. The chance and save of the first half though came five minutes before half time. A foul on Mark Gower on the left touchline saw Irish referee Damien Hancock award a free-kick, which was taken by the Barnet man himself. The flight of the ball was perfect, and from James Taylor's powerful downward header, Tony Roberts had to push the ball away at full stretch to ensure the sides went in even at half-time 0:0.

The second half started much like the first, with the opening twenty minutes seeing both sides search for that elusive opening, but finding both defences gaining the upper hand. National Game XI boss Owens shuffled his pack by bringing on the pacy Yeovil Town striker Adam Stansfield and talented midfielder Simon Weatherstone of Boston United on 67 minutes, but it was the Welsh who almost took the lead three minutes later. Again it was Lloyd-Williams down the right who advanced to the by-line and floated an inviting cross for the on-rushing Wales number 10 Gavin Williams, who next season will line up for Trophy winners Yeovil, after his move from Hereford United. Unfortunately for Williams, Neil Moore – who next season will be plying his trade in the Second Division with Mansfield Town after his close-season move from Telford United – took the perfect position on the edge of the six yard box and managed to flick the ball away from danger. If the Welsh were in danger of gaining the ascendancy, they had the temerity to take a goal lead on 77 minutes to silence the small home crowd. An innocuous looking throw-in on the right was flung over by Mike Flynn, and Neil O'Brien, the tall Welsh number five who is the only player in the squad to be selected from Manger Tommi Morgan's Carmarthen Town side repaid his manager's faith with a powerful flick-header that just crept inside Wayne Brown's near post and crossbar. At 1:0 down and only thirteen minutes left on the clock, Nick Roddis and Aaron Webster immediately made way for Steve Watson and Mark Angel as England sought to preserve Manager Owens' unbeaten record in Internationals going back to 1997. Five minutes later though and the Welsh could have put the game beyond the England National Game XI's reach. A quick break from Ricky Evans in the Welsh midfield culminated in him lifting a delightful ball over the head of the England defence to Graham Evans, who had replaced Lloyd-Williams. Evans met the ball firmly on the volley from 12 yards out, but Brown was equal to the task, standing big and turing away the Welshman's volley for another corner. Evans blotted his copybook on 87 minutes by being the only man to be cautioned on the night after failing to retreat ten yards from a free-kick as England struggled to find an equaliser. With one full minute of normal time remaining, Weatherstone, who had looked very lively since he entered the fray made progress before firing his shot straight at Roberts, and one sensed then that the game was over. However, the Assistant Referee from Scotland, Charlie Richmond signalled 4 minutes of injury time, and after late winning goals against the USA and Holland, Owens' men clearly were not going to go down without a fight. As a Welsh passing move was broken up in midfield, and with three minutes of the four of injury-time already elapsed, Boston's Weatherstone took the ball forward once more. Advancing toward the edge of the area, from twenty yards out he hit an arrow-like shot left-footed across the Welsh goal, beating Roberts' deperate stretch to nestle in the bottom corner and level the scores at 1:1.

There was barely enough time for the referee to re-start the game before the final whistle blew, and for England to disprove the theory of 13 being an unlucky number, as Manager John Owens and his Assistant Steve Avory extended their unbeaten record, before they face a strong Republic of Ireland side at York Street on Thursday evening.

Nationwide MOM: Neil Moore

After the game, the two Managers spoke to TheFA.com: “In truth, I am absolutely gutted”, said Wales Manager Tommi Morgan. “I thought we had the better of the play in the second half, passed the ball around well and created some good chances, and was disappointed to find four minutes of injury time. However, our players have only met up for three days before tonight's game, and I am very proud of how they played against such an established side as the England National Game XI.” Wales now face Scotland at Kettering Town's Rockingham Road on Thursday 16th May at 7.30pm and Morgan said: “We will be going into the game a little bit blind as I don't know too much about the Scottish side. My players are bitterly disappointed that they didn't hold on for a win tonight, but we will lift them tomorrow, have a light training session and go out to try and gain three points on Thursday.”

John Owens was understandably happy that his side had gained a point after a disjointed display against the Welsh. "I felt some of my players were a bit nervous tonight”, said Owens, “and I felt we struggled to break the Welsh down. They passed the ball well, closed us down when we had possession, and at this level, if you get a half-chance, it is important to put some of them away.” England now play the Republic of Ireland at 7.30pm on Thursday 16th May at Boston United, a game Owens admits will not be easy. “If we had lost tonight, it may have been difficult to lift the players, especially after the Irish had beaten Scotland 2-0 tonight. Thursday's game will be a big challenge as the Irish players are at the very top level of their domestic football, but it is a challenge that we will relish.”
Source: the-FA.com


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