WoSoZone’s Nancy Frostick was at St Mary’s Stadium to witness a disciplined and dogged Wales display in shutting out England. But what are some of the things we learned from the stalemate. She picks her top five.
It’s time to take Wales seriously
Jayne Ludlow has been quietly going about her business as Wales manager, but her side have recently put together an impressive run of form in their World Cup qualifiers. While the ex-Arsenal midfielder played down their chances of qualification from the group when speaking after the match, it’s time to take Wales seriously. A squad packed with WSL experience came to Southampton with a game plan and, even though it wasn’t pretty, shut England down. It was a frustrating watch for Lionesses fans and probably even more so for Phil Neville and his staff. While Wales’ offensive talent didn’t get a chance to shine at St Mary’s because of England’s bombardment, they have got enough fire power to cause other teams in the group trouble. It’s not impossible that they will make in to France next year.
England have a new corner routine… and they won’t be dropping it any time soon
Don’t expect Neville’s England to lump the ball into the box from a corner any more – it’s all about playing it short. It wasn’t the most effective against a team that parked the bus, but the Lionesses manager insists it’s the way forward. While one or two of the routines nearly worked, it was frustrating to see how often it led to a turnover in possession. As the match reached the final minutes and the Lionesses committed to playing the ball short on corner after corner, it had become predictable too. But, Neville has made a case for sticking with his philosophy of playing good, technical football and has the evidence to back it up – there aren’t that many headed goals from corners in women’s football. For the moment it seems we’ll have to trust the process and hope it turns into goals soon.
Neville’s substitutes made a case for a starting spot
Although the manager and the players have said otherwise, England looked tired after a cluttered run of fixtures for most of the starting XI in the last few weeks. This probably contributed to England’s impatience and snatching at chances in front of goal as they looked to put the game to bed. However, the three substitutes of Mel Lawley, Ellen White and Beth Mead, making her debut, all made excellent cases for a starting place and showed the Lionesses’ squad depth. Lawley’s liveliness and link up play caused an instant impact and should certainly be in consideration to start against Bosnia. Even though there’s a sense that most of the starting XI are nailed on, players in a few positions will need to look over their shoulder if they want to hold on to their place.
England are still capable of self-destructing
Was it a goal or wasn’t it? The main talking point from the match is surely Lucy Bronze’s clearance off the line after the ball pinballed around the box from Tash Harding’s shot. With no goal-line technology on hand to confirm that the whole of the ball had crossed the line, England can perhaps feel a little lucky. What that incident, Wales’ only real chance of the match, revealed is that England are still indecisive at times. The match as a whole was cagey and tentative until England really put the burners on in the last ten minutes, but the Lionesses still showed signs of being wobbly defensively. Maybe it’s a little harsh to expect a huge turnaround since the three own goals sunk their SheBelieves campaign, but it was an uncomfortable moment of déjà vu as the ball ricocheting around Carly Telford’s six-yard box off hesitant England legs. Misplaced passes or an inability from the Lionesses back line to clear was the only way Wales would get into the match, and it nearly happened (again).
Phil Neville is not a man to be boxed in
In the comedy moment of the match, Neville turned physio when he dashed onto the pitch to stretch out Kayleigh Green’s cramp. Although he got a telling off from the referee and the fourth official, it was a nice gesture from the England boss. It might have been one venture outside the technical area too far though, as Neville had been wandering, and subsequently chased back in, from his box for most of the match.