Picture: Charlotte Tattersall
Star man: James Hardy (England C)
Entertainment: 4 star
Referee: David Munro (Scotland)
By Matt Badcock
England C had to settle for a draw with rivals Wales C in an entertaining clash at Salford City.
The visitors twice pegged back the Three Lions, who had led through a Nathan Peate own goal in the first half before Kurt Willoughby’s fierce free-kick.
Kayne McLaggon got the first leveller for Wales before substitute Adam Roscow’s dipping strike just after the hour.
England hit the woodwork in their chase of a decisive goal they couldn’t quite muster, but in truth it was probably the right result.
Laurence Maguire, brother of full England international Harry, captained Paul Fairclough’s side that featured three players from the National League North – Darlington full-back Luke Trotman, Kidderminster’s Ed Williams and FC United striker Willoughby – in the starting XI.
While Non-League’s Three Lions always has the scouts flocking to see some of the best U23 talent outside of the Football League, Wales manager Mark Jones selects solely from the Welsh Premier League, albeit open age. And they more than played their part in an entertaining affair.
England tried to impress their patient build-up early on in the game, but the first real opening of the game fell to Wales on 19 minutes when Emlyn Lewis’ header was cleared by Luke James.
England’s best work was coming through AFC Fylde attacker James Hardy – one dancing run took him past despairing Wales challenges only for the former Manchester City youngster to be crowded out before he could get a strong shot away.
It was Hardy’s expansive pass to the right-hand side that led to England’s goal. Trotman burst onto the pass, cut inside before going back out to the byline where he fizzed a wicked low cross Peate couldn’t help but turn in.
Willoughby escaped in behind soon after and hit a low strike Alex Ramsey saved with his feet.
Wales levelled just after the half-hour with a move straight off the training ground – a dummy free-kick giving McLaggon the space to get on the end of Clayton Green’s perfect delivery and fire past Braintree Town keeper Ben Killip.
Wales could have taken the lead inside three minutes of the second-half. Seizing on an England lapse, the ball was pushed out to Eliot Evans, who bent a shot just wide of the post.
Instead it was England who re-took the lead with a cracker. Willoughby lined up a free-kick from range and slammed it past Ramsey for his first goal on his second appearance.
Mark Jones reacted with two changes for Wales and Killip had to be out quickly to paw away from one, Adam Roscow, when he darted into the box.
There was no stopping Roscow on 63 minutes, however, when he raced onto a looped Chris Venables pass and smashed the ball into the top corner to equalise and set up a thrilling finish.
Greg Olley’s improvised hook, when he sneaked in between Welsh defender and keeper, clipped back off the inside of the post and was cleared, and at the other end Roscow called Killip into action.
England pushed for a winner and when Hardy looked to be about to grab it in the 90 minute, a brilliant challenge from Wales’ impressive skipper Aeron Edwards denied the hosts.
England C: Ben Killip (Ryan Huddart 83); Luke Trotman, Laurence Maguire, Jon Mellish. Dan Jones (Dan Happe 53); Josh Taylor; Luke James (Joe Rowley 70), Greg Olley, Ed Williams (Tom White 49), James Hardy; Kurt Willoughby (Brandon Goodship 81)