(Picture David Loveday)
By Matt Badcock,
ENGLAND C suffered late defeat in Tallinn as Estonia U23 hit two quick-fire goals in the final minutes.
It was tough on Non-League’s Three Lions, who had earlier seen Isaac Galliford smash the post from a free-kick, had a penalty claim waved away and arguably been the better side in the second half.
Markus Poom made the breakthrough on 88 minutes before Kaarel Usta wrapped it up in stoppage time.
There was, however, plenty to be proud of. England finished the game with three players on the pitch who were at Step 2 last season, three at Step 3 and one, Hythe Town’s Mitch Dickenson, from Step 4.
England boss Paul Fairclough has never been shy of giving players further down the Pyramid an opportunity and it showed with his selection. At full-back, Darlington’s Luke Trotman and Buxton’s Alex Brown have Three Lions experience but there were two debutants in the heart of the back four.
David Longe-King – who was at Step 3 Biggleswade Town last season – and Dickenson both winning their first cap.
For their part, Estonia had six full internationals in their starting line-up, including Poom, the son of former Derby County stopper Mart.
Frank Livak has scored for the senior side and he had a good early opening that Ben Killip stayed big to keep out.
The former Chelsea keeper has just sealed a move to Hartlepool United from Braintree Town and he showed again on 25 minutes why Pools wanted him so much with another smart block on Livak’s shot.
Poom and Livak had great movement but in between those chances, England had gone close through Kurt Willoughby’s low drive that flew past the post and James Hardy’s attempt that was tipped over the bar.
Hardy was crowned England C Player of the Year by Fairclough and his ball opened up the Estonia defence to find Ephron Mason-Clark’s good run before the Barnet man steered over the bar.
The game was bouncing back and forth with Estonia seeing three chances pass by – the best falling to Silver Grauberg six-yards out where he scooped over the crossbar.
In many ways the final minute encapsulated the first 45 with chances at either end. A good flowing move from England sent Trotman scampering up the right and his low cross came all the way to Willoughby, who was denied by Matvei Igonen. Estonia went straight up the other end and sent in a dangerous cross that Mihkel Ainsaw couldn’t get a telling touch on.
Fylde’s Ryan Croasdale was making his final England C appearance before his age excludes him. The captain, who has always impressed in England colours whistled a shot over from distance at the start of the second-half.
The open nature of the game continued and Longe-King did really well to snuff out a Livak opening as both teams searched for a breakthrough.
Fairclough made changes from the bench and Hitchin Town debutant Galliford was the woodwork away from a stunning opener. His fierce free-kick looked destined for the top corner only for it to rattle the post.
England were playing good football in places, belying the fact they only met up on Monday and many haven’t played competitive football in over a month.
They looked to have a great shout for a penalty as the minutes ticked down when Willoughby was pulled down in the box, referee Kristov Tohver was unmoved.
And it proved pivotal when Estonia took the lead on 88 minutes – Poom, who was excellent along with Livak, getting across the defence to glance a header into the top corner.
Then in stoppage time, substitute Usta sealed the game with a low finish.
Poom 88, Usta 90
England C: 0
England C:Ben Killip (Ryan Huddart 70); Luke Trotman, David Longe-King, Mitch Dickenson, Alex Brown; Ryan Croasdale, Tom White; James Hardy (Isaac Galliford 55); Ephron Mason-Clark (Matt Lowe 64), Kurt Willoughby, Joe Rowley (Wes Fonguck 59)
Tagged England C Team