England C 4-2 Estonia under 23s

Football - England C v Estonia at The Shay Stadium, Halifax.
Football - England C v Estonia at The Shay Stadium, Halifax.

More than 2,000 fans turned out at the Shay to see England C beat Estonia under 23s 4-2.

For one night only, the Shay became an international stage, complete with FIFA walk-on music, to complete a terrific 10 days for the club in the national spotlight.

The sight of those all-white England shirts gracing the Shay surface was something David Bosomworth probably wouldn’t have dreamed about back in 2008; for the Shay to be added to the roster of stadiums to host an England game of any level is a significant club milestone.

Town didn’t get the 4,000-plus turnout they were hoping for, but 2,388 in mid-November with Scotland v England on the box wasn’t bad.

Halifax’s involvement on the pitch wasn’t as strong as anticipated, with an ankle injury ruling out Town skipper Marc Roberts, while Matt Pearson started on the bench.

But on a cold November evening at the Shay, the England side could hardly have wished for a warmer welcome.

Unfortunately, after defeats to Turkey and Slovakia, the only thing resting on the match was to decide who avoided the wooden spoon in Group A; other than national pride of course.

But that didn’t stop England from making a blistering start, with Barnet’s Andy Yiadom delivering a teasing cross that Omar Bogle of Solihull Moors converted after just five minutes.

It’s only inevitable those in attendance would draw comparisons to the England senior side, with whom the public have an apathetic relationship at best.

But this England side quickly endeared themselves to the crowd as they pressed the Estonians high up the pitch and dominated the early stages.

Harry Beautyman, who will face Halifax for Welling on Saturday, nearly doubled England’s lead but for a flying save from Estonia keeper Matvei Igonen.

Any Football League scouts with a night off would have been well served by grabbing their free ticket, with Forest Green’s Elliott Frear and Yiadom particularly catching the eye.

England were lively on the ball and were happy to play it out from the back, with Beautyman and Bogle dovetailing nicely in attack.

For their part, Estonia offered little going forward, giving England plenty of time to build from the back.

A brief break from the England dominance saw captain Mikk Reintam hit the post with a header.

By now the atmosphere had died down a little from the excited ole’s after Bogle’s opener, with the high-pitched cheers from the stands emphasising plenty of local youngsters would be staying up past their bedtime.

Beautyman’s free-kick brought another acrobatic save from Igonen before the visitors equalised when Brent Lepistu chipped Brandon Hall from the edge of the box.

You could tell it wasn’t a Town game when the goal from the away side was greeted with polite applause.

Beautyman nearly restored England’s lead immediately but prodded wide on the stretch from Kingsley James’ excellent low cross.

Estonia enjoyed their best spell so far as England were forced onto the back foot, causing a few nervy moments among the back four.

But Beautyman got the goal his first-half display deserved just before the break when Bogle nodded down Frear’s cross and the Welling forward volleyed past Igonen.

The buzz around the stadium at half-time suggested the £1,000 prize draw was quite an added incentive to see the game.

More trickery from Yiadom just after the restart gave him half-a-yard to shoot before his shot was cleared off the line.

On the other flank, Frear continued to stand out, setting up Beautyman, whose weak effort was saved.

Yiadom was then given far too much time to pick his spot and lash the ball high past Igonen for a deserved goal of his own.

James spurned a great chance when he blasted over unmarked inside the area as the Estonia defence did a disappearing act.

But James did get his goal a few minutes later with a well-placed header from Yiadom’s cross.

Martin Kase pulled one back for Estonia from the spot after Chey Dunkley’s handball before one of the biggest cheers of the night when Matt Pearson finally came off the bench.

England C: Hall (Ollerenshaw 90), Halls, Brown, Nolan (Gallagher 80), Dunkley, Parkes, Yiadom, James (Pearson 85), Boglen (Burrow 68), Beautyman (Jennings 80), Frear.

Scorers: Bogle (5), Beautyman (43), Yiadom (66), James (80)

Shots on target: 7

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 7

Estonia: Igonen, Aloe, Vihmann, Kaldoja, Reintam, Lepistu, Kauber (Sobtsenko 73), Elhi (Gussev 65), Tjapkin (Kase 65), Prosa (junolainen 83), Sinilaird. Subs not used: Aland, Avilov, Kaljumae.

Scorer: Lepistu (34), Kase (85)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 2

Attendance: 2,388

England man of the match: Elliott Frear