The boys still might have had their heads down from the Scotland game, but we felt that we could learn from our mistakes as we prepared ourselves to take on the holdersof the Centenary Shield, Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland had gone unbeaten against the home nations all season. We knew it would be a huge game and to win we would have to play as a team for the whole 90+ minutes.
The feeling we got seeing the narrow pitch was somewhat of a relief, as we knew it would suit our tactical approach. The cold windy day also gave us a sense of what Northern Ireland had in hand for us.
Walking out of a changing room with the fern on our chest is a dream of many and we had that chance to do so.
Right from the first whistle we showed the Northern Irish we were up for it. In the first two minutes our high pressure paid off, and we caught them off guard, with Judd Baker scoring in the second minute. With the physical presence of our team we dominated the first half physically and mentally. Mid -way through the first half Sam Brotherton scored our second, picking the ball up in the midfield and driving forward to shoot in to the bottom right hand corner.
Going into the changing shed at half time 2:0 up was a fair enough result and we were happy with our performance so far.
We knew we would have a tough 45 minutes ahead of us because we knew the Irish would come out firing. Our defence held their line and shut them down quickly, while the midfield and front two closed off their options to play : this frustrated them and encouraged us to play our game. Despite plenty of attacking opportunities we did not punish them for their mistakes. But we held out for the whole 45 minutes and came off the pitch with a win and a clean sheet.
The boys gave it everything and it showed on the pitch. We deserved that win and showed that we are a team to be reckoned with.
This game gave us a good boost of confidence and reassured us that we can go throughout this tour unbeaten … if we do our jobs and works as a team.