Sky Sports Victory Shield
WALES 4 NORTHERN IRELAND 0
WALES 4 NORTHERN IRELAND 0
An emphatic win by Wales at Bangor City’s Book People Stadium brought a highly satisfying season to an end. Osian Roberts’ Under 16 squad have shown progression throughout the competition and fully deserved their win against a team who had hopes of winning the Victory Shield after their surprise away victory against England.
It was important for Wales to start well after a disappointing first half in their previous game against Scotland and they could not have had a better opening when in the 4th minute, Everton’s Nathan Broadhead beat two players on a wonderful run and curled the ball into the top left hand corner of the net. Broadhead, a local lad from Menai Bridge, whose grandfather Tony was a legend at Bangor City, was justifiably delighted with his superb goal, and together with his Everton colleague Ryan Harrington, had another outstanding game for Wales.
Confidence grew from the goal and the hosts went on to dominate play with West Brom’s Tyler Roberts making strong positive runs and showing excellent touches. The first 10 minutes saw a 79% - 21% possession gain to Wales.
The nearest Northern Ireland came to scoring was in the 16th minute following a free-kick which almost led to an own goal. The ball was deflected by a Welsh defender resulting in a corner kick which deceived keeper Absalom due to the breezy conditions.
Swansea City’s Liam Cullen increased the lead in the 20th minute. Great work by Nathan Broadhead on the right and some poor defending by the visitors led to Cullen slotting a right foot shot into the net for his second in successive games.
Roberts continued to play havoc with Northern Ireland’s defence giving King and Smith a torrid time. He was involved with most of Wales’ attacking play and manager Roberts must have been delighted with the high standard of football by his team in the first half. The visitors first attempt on target came after 32 minutes just before Broadhead had a chance to make it 3-0 when he lost his composure with a shot which went over the bar. At this stage Wales led the goal attempts by 6-1 with 3-1 on target.
Northern Ireland made two substitutions at half-time with McKendry and Walker replacing McClean and Caulfield and with Shea Conaty playing a more central attacking role, they started the half more brightly.
The next goal was going to be an important one and it came to Wales with Tyler Roberts showing great composure in the penalty area after outstanding work by Harrington. The Wales skipper won a tackle near the halfway line and following a good run and a clever step-over he passed to Roberts who made space for himself to put Wales into a commanding 3-0 lead. Roberts, who is young enough to play again for Wales next season and the two Everton players were having excellent games, showing great skill and confidence.
The visitors made their third substitution in the 58th minute when Joe Crowe, who had been booked, was replaced by Emmett McNabb. A free kick by Conaty from just outside the penalty area went over the bar and the visitors were guilty of wasting most of their set pieces. After an hour’s play Wales led the goal attempts by 11-3 with 6-1 on target.
A fourth substitution was made by Northern Ireland in the 64th minute when the injured Shea Gordon was replaced by Jake Francis and two minutes later Wales brought on Elijah Chilweka for Liam Cullen.
With Wales continuing to dominate the game and Roberts showing outstanding qualities, the game looked won and opportunities were given to Kieran Evans and Jack Evans who came on for Broadhead and Ovenden. Olali replaced Henry for the visitors before Roberts scored Wales’ fourth goal following a deep cross from the left by Kieran Evans. It was met by Chilweka who laid the ball back to Roberts who coolly netted his second of the evening capping an outstanding evening.
The win was Wales’ best result since the 4-0 defeat of England at Haverfordwest in 2010 giving Osian Roberts a very satisfactory end to the season, and this performance, together with the success of the Under 17 and 19 squads in qualifying for the elite stages of UEFA competitions bodes well for the future of football in Wales.