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Release Date: 29/09/2010

THE honours were even at a blustery Bear Park, Newcastle as a Northern Ireland side drew 1-1 with England in a veteranís International match.

The English team arrived in Newcastle fresh from a morale boosting win last month, over Scotland in Glasgow.  Despite the Scots fielding both ex- Aberdeen and Celtic midfielder Billy Stark and former Rangers and Brighton striker Gordon Smith, Mike Burles’ England side recorded a comfortable 2-1 win.

With the England side packed with league experience Mark Hughes’ Northern Ireland side looked to be up against it. In a lively opening spell England dominated with ex Watford winger Peter Coffill in superb form.

However, Northern Ireland weathered the storm and some superb defending from Jim Connolly, Barney Ross and Ray Kendall kept the scores level.  Keeper Brian Healy showed some excellent handling as England pressed through Gould, Edkins and Hill.

Northern Ireland were always dangerous on the break and took the lead when Angus McCullough outpaced the English defence to shoot past Day.  England’s slow methodical build up was very pleasing on the eye and at times Northern Ireland struggled to get the ball.

However, a packed home defence ensured that there were few chances.  England’s Peter Wilkinson and Stevie Gould began to exert their influence on the game and they equalised when an excellent cross into the Northern Ireland penalty area was headed into his own net by the unlucky Barney Ross.

Northern Ireland pushed forward in numbers to regain the lead but the England rearguard led by skipper Steve “Tiger” Taylor was always in control and Taylor was well supported by Keenan, Cowan and Zeffert.  Former Fulham defender Taylor produced a Bobby Moore like performance with some assured tackling and passing as he continually frustrated the home attack.

The second half saw England beginning to dominate but Northern Ireland defended superbly with centre back Jim Connolly outstanding.  The former Downpatrick Rec player’s tackling was as tenacious as ever and his reading of the game ensured he was never out of position.

Seamus Heath, Ian Garrett, Ossie Gelston, Alan Mills, Brian McKibben and Packie McCartan all rolled back the years as Northern Ireland battled to contain the English.  McCartan in particular had a couple of good chances to shoot his side in front but was denied by the keeper.

With the home side tiring and England pressing for a winner Northern Ireland were grateful to the woodwork with a Hill effort coming back off the upright.


Overall a draw was a fair result with Northern Ireland now travelling to Wales in October for the next game in this home international series.  England player manager Mike Burles was wholesome in his praise for the home side. “It was a terrific game and all credit to Northern Ireland” he said. “After our result against Scotland we came here expecting a win but at the end of the day we are happy with a draw.”

Mike added: “I would just like to thank everyone that helped in organising the game.  It is definitely the most picturesque venue that we have played at and we are looking forward to coming back in the future.”

Northern Ireland manager Mark Hughes said: “This was a brilliant day.  I am sure many of the guys thought that an international cap had passed them by but with games planned against both Wales and Scotland over the next few months it is an opportunity for them to get two or three,” added the Northern Ireland manager with his tongue firmly in his cheek!

“I would also like to thank Mike and the England team for coming over and hopefully we can play them again in England.”

A terrific day with new friendships being made and football a clear winner!

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    Northern Ireland v England - international veterans match

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