28 September 2012

England are five alive in Shield

England captain Jordan Rossiter was among the scorers.

England began their Victory Shield defence with an emphatic but unsurprising victory over Northern Ireland in Dungannon.

Kenny Swain's boys showed just why they have won or shared every title from the last 11 years, with several of them really catching the eye in the opening game of this year's competition.

Northern Ireland never really looked like getting a home point, but England took a while to get into their stride. Their first great opportunity came on 17 minutes, when Adam Armstrong's header was spilled by the unconvincing NI keeper Brett Long and Luke Amos couldn't quite control the rebound well enough to put it in.

Four minutes later, England made the breakthrough. Demetri Mitchell's corner was headed towards goal by Isaiah Brown, and Liverpool centre-back Tom Brewitt was on hand to score with a striker's finish.

As the game approached the half-hour mark, that goal was bettered by an absolutely wonderful one from Manchester United's Mitchell. Taking the ball from just inside the England area, he dribbled straight through the Irish defence before hitting a peach of a left-footed strike into the top corner.

Northern Ireland barely threatened the England goal, and Freddie Woodman's comfortable catch from a Jonathan Smith effort summed up Ireland's performance in that area of the pitch.

In the last of the 40 minutes of the half (as there are in Victory Shield matches), England got a third goal. Armstrong found his captain Jordan Rossiter to his left, and the Liverpool midfielder hit the corner with another excellent strike from the Three Lions.

The second half saw the introduction of two players who would play starring roles in England's inevitable fourth goal. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson's cross into the area was headed away by an NI defender, but Armstrong neatly flicked the ball towards Callum Cooke, leaving the Middlesbrough man to easily tap it past Long.

On 58 minutes, after having a couple of close-range efforts blocked, Patrick Roberts played in Cooke, and once again, there was nothing Long could do other than pick the ball out of his net. It was Cooke's second goal of the night, and it seems that the Middlesbrough academy might have yet another gem in its hands.

To be fair to Northern Ireland, they did improve after conceding those five goals, but Woodman remained unthreatened and his clean sheet was never in doubt.

The gulf between the sizes of the teams' respective talent pools was all too clear, and England could easily have matched the six goals they put past the hosts at Ballymena in 2008. Armstrong came close to getting a deserved goal for himself in the 68th minute, and Roberts had a few decent chances as well. Borthwick-Jackson nearly put the icing on the cake in the penultimate minute with a shot which just went over.

After such a convincing victory, it will take a brave man to predict that Swain and his latest crop of players won't get their hands on the Victory Shield once again this year.

Prior to kick-off, there was a moment's applause for the late Ulster rugby union player Nevin Spence, who was part of Northern Ireland's squad for the 2005 Victory Shield.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Long; Edgar, Byers, Quigley, Foster; B Kennedy, Law, Hoey (Barton); Thompson (Doherty), Smith (Mooney), Fallon.
Booked: Law 50.

ENGLAND: Woodman; Lowe (Borthwick-Jackson), Maghoma, Brewitt, Moore (Kenny); Amos (Rashford), Dowell (Cooke), Rossiter; Mitchell, Brown (Roberts), Armstrong.
SCORERS: Brewitt 21, Mitchell 30, Rossiter 40, Cooke 47,58.

TDTR Man of the Match: Tom Brewitt (England). He was a solid presence at the heart of the English defence, and opened the floodgates with a well-taken strike.

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