England Women's U17s had a very happy Easter as they defended the six nation tournament title they won on home soil twelve months ago.
England, Holland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Russia and the USA travelled to Holland to take part, and Lois Fidler's squad which featured some very inexperienced players, as well as players looking to progress to the U19s came home with the silverware.
After arriving, The Three Lions took on USA in a training match and after going a goal down, won the game 2-1, perfect preparation for three games in four days.
First up were Scotland, and England raced into a two goal lead with a brace from Sarah Wiltshire of Arsenal either side of half-time. Scotland pulled a goal back before Everton's Toni Duggan then got her name on the scoresheet but two late goals conceeded from set plays saw the match end 3-3.
However, in order to decide which two teams would progress to the final if points were level, the two sides fought out a penalty shoot-out, with Gilly Flaherty netting the winner, with England winning the shoot-out 4-3.
Next up were Russia, less than 24 hours later. Toni Duggan gave England a two goal lead before Sarah Wiltshire then came on to net her third goal of the tournament, before Chelsea Weston sealed a 4-0 victory in the 76th minute.
The result saw England progress to the tournament final where they played the hosts. Duggan gave England the lead but after conceeding a disputed penalty, the game finished 1-1.
Twenty minutes of extra time still couldn't separate the two countries, and after the penalty shoot-out went into sudden death, it was Everton's Michelle Hinnigan who stepped up to score the deciding spot kick.
Talking to TheFA.com, Head Coach Lois Fidler said: "The players thoroughly deserve the success as they put in a series of gutsy, team performances and in every game they had to contend with something different.
"With a new UEFA tournament starting in October, this tournament will play an important part in the selection process, and at the start of the week we wanted to give the players all some match action, experience of the rest and recovery strategies they'll need as they move up through the system.
"We worked hard on the players finishing the tournament in the same physical and mental condition as when they started.
"The USA were a strong, athletic side and the players showed good character to come from a goal down to win that game, which set things up well for the match against Scotland.
"Games between the two countries are always passionate occasions with a lot of national pride at stake. We went 3-1 up but then conceeded from two set pieces, so there's a lesson to be learnt there about closing games out when we forge a lead, as in major tournaments, such results can be the difference between reaching the knock-out stages or not.
"The penalty shoot-out again was something you can't recreate in training and the girls decided amongst themselves who would take them.
"The Russians were a totally different proposition and the game was a big learning curve for our players. The Russian team were very resilient, came to disrupt our game and stop us playing, marked our players very tightly and also engaged in a few elements of gamesmanship.
"I was very impressed with our players as they concentrated on their own game, didn't get involved in any off-the-ball incidents and were rewarded with a fine 4-0 win.
"The Final against Holland saw us reflect beforehand on all the lessons of the week and after a lot of game-time, the players weathered extra time and kept their composure in front of the home crowd to win another penalty shoot-out.
"With a four team tournament in Finland in May and then a training camp in August, we'll be taking a look at a range of players over the next four months, so that come October, when we play our first UEFA qualifiers in Georgia, the players will be well versed in tournament football, and the challenges that will come with that as their careers progress."
Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
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