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Women's Football News
Wales hosted England in front of a highly vocal Welsh crowd numbering in excess of 400 at Neath's Llandarcy Park on Friday night in an Under 16 Girls' National Development Squad friendly international.
The big crowd clearly reflected the current popularity of the game following England's run to the World Cup quarter finals in China last month. Hope Powell, the England Manager was also in the stands, casting her eye perhaps for potential players for four year's time, and by the evidence on offer here, the future is certainly bright for the girls' game both in Wales and England.
A high tempo game from the off saw England race into a quick-fire lead after twenty minutes. One strike each from forwards Kirsty Linnett and the strong and skilful Danielle Carter, who tested Wales goalkeeper Melanie Thomas with every chance she got, saw England go two up. Wales at first struggled to cope with the strong running from midfield of England captain Katherine Nutman, and if it hadn't been for the energy and precision tackling of Wales number eight Sharla Passierello, Thomas would have been kept even busier.
Going behind saw Wales reorganise with Head Coach Colin Staples move his midfield deeper to help out the defence. Encouraged to break quickly with the ball, Wales through Simone Drummond on the left wing, tormented England and chances came their way. Forwards Danielle Broadhurst and Captain Emily Brown both had chances but were denied by England stopper Holly Clarke. After half an hour, a free kick was awarded to Wales thirty yards out. Only parried by the keeper, Brown was the first to react and poked the goal home to deservedly get Wales on the scoresheet.
The ecstatic response from the crowd lifted the Welsh players, perhaps too much, as they were distracted and, following a run and cross from the left hand side by England's Leah Galton, Carter restored their two goal advantage with a strong turn and shot inside the far post.
The second half gave both teams the opportunity to reorganise and nullify the strengths of their opponents. From the kick off Wales appeared to had the edge as they sought to get back into the game. Defender Hannah Davies particularly snuffed out any chance Carter had of scoring a hat trick, with a host of determined tackles setting the standard for the half. Indeed it was a more even display with England threatening down the flanks and then Wales exploiting any gaps to break through and attack. Neither side able to break the other down.
With numerous substitutions taking place to ensure every player got the opportunity to sample the big occasion, the game understandably slowed somewhat. Chances were still being made however. Breaking through from midfield, the always impressive Brown saw her chance and struck from twenty five yards to score hers and Wales's second of the game. The crowd drove their team on sensing a second as the momentum was with the home team, but unfortunately time was against them.
Referee Paula Small blew the final whistle and the players walked off the field to the deserved applause and cheers of all the crowd. England had been expected to win comfortably, but Wales had stepped up and given a strong account of themselves. If the game had been five minutes longer, it could have been a draw, but Wales and England will draw strength from this performance.
After the match, Wales Head Coach Colin Staples said: "We were more than happy with the performance because, if we get that right, the results will come. They are a new squad, they have all learnt something tonight and they have all improved.. Everyone played well and performed, which we've shown by winning the second half 1-0."
England Head Coach Kay Cossington added: "I am happy both with the result and the opportunity for the girls to play and perform. We stuck to our own plan as we didn't know the Wales team that well. We meet up again in February for squad training and have plenty to build upon."
Wales Manager and Welsh Football Trust Technical Director Osian Roberts commented: "They improved as the game went on which will continue the more they play. It is all about regular competition and playing on a regular basis. We want to give them opportunities to progress. Tonight, once they got used to the pace and physical component of the game, they were fine."
"Tonight was a good game and towards the end we were really improving," said Wales captain Emily Brown. "I thought we were best on set pieces and going forward. We have a game versus Scotland next month and they beat us last time 2-0, so I'm really looking forward to trying to beat them."
(Report by Jamie Grundy)
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