Thursday, 11 June 2015

England U21 1 v Belarus U21 0 - International Match

Thursday 11th June 2015
International Friendly
at Oakwell, Barnsley
England U21 (0) 1 Ben Gibson 83
Belarus U21 (0) 0
Admission £10. Programme £3. Attendance 15,207
England U21
Butland (Bond 69); Jenkinson, Stones (Chambers 45 ), Gibson, Garbutt, Ward-Prowse (Chalobah 69), Carroll (Forster-Caskey 69), Hughes (Loftus-Cheek 45 ), Redmond (Ings 60 ), Berahino (Kane 59), Pritchard (Lingard 69). 
Unused Subs - Keane,  Moore, Targett, Bettinelli.
Belarus U21:
Vasilyuchek; Zolatau, Ihnatsenka, Leshka (Evdokimov 45); Karpovich, Yablonskiy, Korzun (Pavlyunkovets 86), Yarotskiy (Shibun 64 sub subbed by Baiduk, 86), Poznyak, Yanchanka (Klimovich 76), Lebedzeu (Milevski 64). 
Unused Subs - Chichkan, Evdokimov.
We arrived in Barnsley around a hour before the scheduled kick off time and I managed to get a quick drink in The Mount public house, which has some tasteful 'Toby Tyke' images painted on it's windows and served a decent pint of Bitter, as you'd expect in this locality.
However, my sidekick posted on Facebook that she was in The Mount with me and that in her opinion it was one of the worst pubs she has ever been in.
So we moved on and having left a nearby chip shop without buying anything, because she didn't like the look of 'owt that had been cooked in the traditional Yorkshire way (what a snob), we ended up at the ground far too early and had to settle for overpriced, overcooked, burnt to the an extent that bordered on cremation and completely inedible pies.
A herd of very big boned people squeezed into the seats directly beside us about ten minutes before the game got underway, meaning that every time anyone wanted to scratch an itch, sneeze, look at their programme or scoff another one of the endless supply of snack food items they had bought along with them, the front row of Block EU9 turned into an undignified mosh akin to a game of Sumo Twister as we vanished under a scrum of sweaty and jiggly flesh.
Squeezed into a contorted position, that has possibly knocked at least ten years off of the life expectancy of my backbone, I was really pleased that the setting sun on the far side of the ground was now directly in my sight line and that awful Skinner & Baddiel cash in football anthem was blasting out of the tannoy at a volume that would put an aeroplane taking off to shame (for the fourth ****ing time), to distract me from the pain of numerous crush wounds and make the side effects of suffering from near asphyxiation slightly more bearable, or else I would have been thoroughly miserable.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, can you please be upstanding and respect the national anthems of both countries"... carnage!
I will carry the physical and mental scars for a very long time.
The Belarus anthem sounded very similar to our own, if Pinky and Perky had ever made a cover version of it.
Delays on the M1 meant that they didn't get to the game on time and the kick off was initially put back 30 minutes, but further hold ups meant the game finally got underway at 8.22pm.
These things can't be helped.
Having arrived late, the Belarus coach driver couldn't find anywhere to park, so he abandoned the team bus on the pitch in front of the goal England were attacking... so to speak ;-)
This was a very young Belarus side, who having failed to qualify for the tournament in the Czech Republic, are already building towards the next one, with an eager to please team, who are determined to put down there marker for a place in the forthcoming qualifying campaign.
England persevered throughout the game to try breaking down a stubborn and determined Belarus rearguard, but it proved to be a frustrating night for Gareth Southgate's highly rated side.
And though they eventually chalked up a 14th win out of 15 games, they were made to work bloody hard for it.
Belarus did venture forwards a few times, but the majority of the game was played out in the final third of whichever half the visitors were defending.
Patience is a virtue throughout the England coaching blueprint DNA, but when a team turns up with little but damage limitation and getting ten men behind the ball as a game plan, frustration will set in and several rushed chances went begging.
Around the hour mark, England introduced the 'big guns' of Danny Ings and Harry Kane, but even they were finding the defensive strategy employed by the visitors difficult to break down.
There was only slightly more room in the Belarus goalmouth as their was up in Row AA.
Luke Garbutt's forward runs from the middle of defence and Ross Jenkinson's raids down the right flank from his full back berth were providing plenty of ammunition, but Igor Kovalevich's side were having none of it.
On 82 minutes, England finally got a solitary breakthrough on a night when they were expected to win handsomely, when Mikalai Zolatou conceded a free kick and was dismissed for receiving a second yellow card.
Luke Garbutt swung the dead ball into the six yard box from out on the right, the Belarus keeper Uladzislau Vasiliuchak (who up until then was probably the main contender man of the match) failed to get hold of it and Ben Gibson was on hand to crash the loose ball into the roof of the net from close range.
FT - England U21 1 v Belarus U21 0
After tonight's narrow win over Belarus Under 21, the England Under 21 manager Gareth Southgate said:
"It was a really good test for us. They were very spirited, defensive and resilient. It was a perfect match for us.
"We moved the ball well, created chances but at times the final pass was not there. But I'm really pleased with the build-up we have had.
"We're really looking forward to the challenge. There's a huge motivation in the dressing room to do well (at the European U21 Championship Finals, in the Czech Republic next week) and we have another gear to go up to."
England's European U21 Championship 2015 fixtures
Thursday 18th June v Portugal 7.45pm
Sunday 21st June v Sweden 5.00pm
Wednesday 24th June v Italy 7.45pm
Saturday 27th June Semi Finals
Winner of Group B v 2nd place in Group A 5.00pm
Winner of Group A v 2nd place in Group B 8.00pm
Tuesday 30th June Final