Five things we learned as England take victory in close C International match-up
Wales C suffered a narrow defeat to England C in their first semi-professional fixture as a Welsh Premier League select XI.
Mark Jones’ side remained competitive throughout in the game, with Fejiri Okenabirhie proving to be the difference between the two.
What did we learn from the game?
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Wales C Team show promise in return to action
In their first fixture since 2012, the Welsh Premier League contingent by no means seemed overmatched by their opponents, creating numerous chances in a wide-open affair.
Up against an England C side that regularly takes part in international competition, Wales were able to find great success with their quick pressure on the ball and narrow defensive setup, where on many occasions they were able to steal the ball in the English final third and create great opportunities to score.
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Mistakes in possession prove costly for Wales
Despite a strong opening to the game, ultimately simple mistakes cost Wales in key areas that saw them slip behind in only the tenth minute of action. Misplaced passes and miscommunications gave the opposition valuable opportunities, often costing the Welsh side possession in promising areas.
Nomads stalwart Mike Pearson despite being a great defensive option for his club side this year suffered a brief lapse in concentration that saw his pass picked off in a dangerous area, that was well finished by English forward Fejiri Okenabirhie to break the deadlock between the two sides. It was these moments in the game that proved to be Wales’ downfall, and simply could be put down to a lack of cohesive playing time together. Nevertheless, these mistakes are easily rectifiable over time.
England show comfort in a possessive style of football
England C showed flurries of great possessive movement throughout the tie, quickly spreading play and attempting to tire out the Welsh defence, utilising the width they were able to create with both fullbacks Samuel Ling and Dan Jones pushing high into the Welsh half.
Establishing an almost suffocating style of pressing when out of possession, England were able to quickly recover their hold of the ball by cutting off any avenues of escape through the middle of the field, forcing Mark Jones’ men into a long ball style that they simply were not well equipped to deal with, finding more success in their quick interplay, rather than the more direct route they appeared to be coerced into.
Okenabirhie bags a hattrick in an impressive display
Fejiri Okenabirhie’s three goals were instrumental in helping his side overcome the Welsh in Tuesday’s tie at Jenner Park, as the forward put in a bustling performance full of energy and showed his clinical nature in front of goal. The Dagenham and Redbridge outfit showed just how lethal he could be in the match-up, providing a thunderous finish for his first by slamming an effort into the top right of stopper Ashley Morris’s goal, rooting the keeper to the spot in the process.
The number 11 showed his composure also, staying calm under pressure as he stepped up to the mark and slotted home into the right-hand side from the penalty spot. The star man was not finished, however, slamming an effort from outside the box that gave Welsh stopper Morris little chance of saving. In an impressive performance for the away side, Okenabirhie will no doubt have earnt his stripes for another starting place within the English C setup.
Substitute Mark Jones stakes claim for starting spot
A surprise impact player, Mark Jones made a great case for a starting spot after his impressive display coming off the bench for the Welsh side. The Carmarthen Town forward provided the first Welsh goal, whilst his hold up play was extremely effective for the home nation, winning numerous free-kicks and linking counterattacks with an impressive display of strength against his opposing defence.
Perhaps most influential was the strikers’ willingness to press off the ball, as he provided what appeared to be an endless motor, ruthlessly closing down the English defenders and forcing them into precarious positions. Providing an influential spark off the bench, manager Mark Jones will have a tough decision to make when deciding his starting 11 for their next fixture.