The sun came out for the first day of the Home Internationals at Peffermill Playing Fields as the home nationals kicked of the 2013 tournament.
The Home Internationals bring together the best players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to represent their nations in an A and B tournament. This year has significant value with all national teams building up to the 2013 World Cup in Canada.
England v Wales
The first game of the tournament saw a repeat of the European Championship Final, which England came home with gold after winning 11-5.
With both teams meeting in their World Cup group, this was going to be a dress rehearsal for the summer so both teams were looking to set an early marker.
England collected the first possession of the game with Keely Watt carrying the ball into attack, with thirty seconds on the clock, Sophie Brett forced the first of many saves from the Wales keeper, Erin Walters before Mel Arr collected a loose ball to clear for Wales. The Welsh team would have the next phase of attack with sustained pressure for over two minutes, Lucy Fowler and Sophy Coombes-Roberts taking opportunities at goal. Laura Merrifield, Englands experienced midfielder would draw the first free position shot of the game while driving to goal, however her shot was saved by Walters who also intercepted the following feed from England.
Walters in goal was growing in confidence, but it would be Ali Smith who would be the first person to find the back of the net after seven minutes, on a cut from a Liv Wimpenny feed. Wales would respond within a minute with Ros Llyod Rout unleashing a powerful shot into the top corner (1-1).
With the game even at one each, Sophie Brett scored her first of the game, beating Walters with a low shot off a free position shot (2-1).
Wales did not let this get to them and finished the half with most of the possession off the back of six saves from Walters helping them on a three goal run, Llyod-Rout scoring two and Coombes-Roberts one, all using the same move of a feed over the post and a quick-stick shot.
England had a goal disallowed after it was judged Asha Niven, ran through the circle. The first half finished with Wales in the driving seat leading 4-2.
The second half started with an England attack, Brett firing just wide of the post but had another chance soon after which she bounced past the keeper. Ruby Smith would pick up the first yellow card of the game for a dangerous shot, but England managed to play the two minutes out with Cat Gaunt playing ‘cat and mouse’ around the goal circle.
It would now be England’s turn to go on a goal run, the first goal from the ‘play of the day’, as R Smith entered the pitch from her penalty and instinctively saving the ball from going out leading to Wimpenny picking up the groundball and feeding a diving Niven to score her first International goal.
Merrifield then netted for England doing what she does best, driving from the midfield and bouncing past the Wales keeper, before Emily Gray also finished a free position opportunity with a bounce shot to put England two up (6-4).
Wales answered back almost instantly with Llyod-Rout beating Gaunt, closely followed by Iona Dryden only forty seconds later from another free position shot (6-6).
The game was heating up and the physicality increased which led to Becky Thomas gaining a free position which she converted to put Wales back in the lead (7-6).
Both teams traded opportunities with Gaunt and Walters making save after save. It looked like the game was turning back in favour of the Welsh when Emma Hawkins picked up a drop pass leading to a Wales attack, finished off by Coombes-Roberts (8-6).
The European champions now needed to dig deep and turned defence into attack with defender Annie Hiller coming to the rescue to bring the game to a one goal game (8-7).
Watt was now starting to influence the game at both ends making important stops in defence, collecting clears and scoring the next goal for England from a drive behind goal to equalise (8-8).
The game was tense and with just over three minutes left, Wales would take advantage of England’s second yellow with Dryden placing the ball round an oncoming Gaunt (9-8).
The spectators were treated to cagey final two minutes with the post coming to the rescue for Walters from a Brett shot England trying to get back in the game, before Lucy Lynch found an unmarked Watt in front of goal (9-9).
With two minutes left in the game, Wales picked up their first yellow card shown to Callan Jones and England used the player advantage to create an opportunity which was denied by Walters, but with lots of pressure on the clear, England forced a turnover. The loose ball was picked up by Katy Bennett who managed to finish past a diving Walters to put England back in the lead with under a minute left.
The possession from the draw was collected by England who calmly controlled possession to the final whistle. Both teams put in a great show for the spectators and the Welsh ran the European Champions close in the opening game and were unlucky not to come out with the win.
England will look back at this game knowing that this game could have gone either way, but remain on course to retain the Home International title.
Game Images – Click HERE for more
|England Goals||Wales Goals|
|Keely Watt (2)||Ros Llyod-Rout (4)|
|Sophie Brett (2)||Sophy Coombes-Roberts (2)|
|Ali Smith (1)||Iona Dryden (2)|
|Asha Niven (1)||Becky Thomas (1)|
|Laura Merrified (1)|
|Emily Grey (1)|
|Annie Hillier (1)|
|Katy Bennett (1)|