TURKEY arrived late in England on Monday night after their flight was delayed – and they did it again 24 hours later when Aydin Yilmaz hit an 87th-minute sucker punch.
It was harsh on England C. A courageous display deserved extra-time at the very least.
This was up there with their biggest of tests. Turkey boasted three players in their starting line-up with full international caps.
On the bench sat defender Eren Gungor with five senior appearances to his name. But at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, Paul Fairclough’s Three Lions once again showed they are fit to stand in the same spotlight as some of European football’s brightest prospects.
It just goes to show the quality of young players trying to make their way outside the Football League.
“The team last night have been one of the best TEAMS I’ve had,” said boss Fairclough.
“I have to say, a couple of years ago I was getting worried about where the players had disappeared to.
“It’s a real testament to the Conference and its clubs that this new generation has come through. They’ve been such a
good bunch to work with because they were receptive to the instructions and coaching from the word go.”
From the first whistle, England got straight down to business with Kieron Forbes formally welcoming Sefa Yilmaz with a strong challenge after just 15 seconds.
Having seen videos of this Turkey team – that is essentially their B side – England knew how comfortable they would be on the ball.
Emre Colak, who made his Champions League debut for Galatasaray at Manchester United in September, soon started to show why he has been nicknamed ‘The Small Diamond’ back home. The pint-sized midfielder was a
joy to watch as his moved the ball around the park.
But when the chances started to come, Turkey hadn’t banked upon England keeper Preston Edwards.
The Ebbsfleet stopper palmed away Tevfik Kose’s miscued shot that took a big kick up off the turf before making two more vital stops. First, when Yilmaz slipped in behind the defence, he spread himself wide to block the initial shot before recovering to smother the loose ball. And when Yilmaz got in again he came sprinting out to bravely claim the ball at the Galatasaray winger’s feet.
Dartford’s Princes Park was providing a red hot atmosphere. Turkey had a large and boisterous travelling support.
Flares were lit, but the fire was really starting to burn for England.
Andre Gray flicked Josh Gillies’ cross wide and captain Jamie Turley had his strong drive turned behind. The midfield three of Kenny Davis, Forbes and debutant Sam Wedgbury, who had bags of desire to block Kose’s clear sight of goal, were working together perfectly.
England sensed a spot in the final was there for the taking. Forest Green’s classy midfielder Forbes was having
more and more influence as was Gateshead’s Gillies.
The winger created the best chance of the game with a gorgeous cross that came to Lindon Meikle at the back post but the Mansfield winger couldn’t hit the target.
Extra-time was looming until a pivotal injury. Simon Ainge, who had earlier made a fantastic block to deny a clear chance, suffered a gash to his foot. While he was off and before England could replace him with Ryan Jackson the
hammer blow was delivered.
Yilmaz found the space leftover and when the ball arrived he showed all his quality with a clinical finish.
It’s a cruel game.