After 349 days without a game, the Lionesses finally were back in action against Northern Ireland. Goals from Lucy Bronze, Rachel Daly, Ella Toone and a hattrick from Ellen White saw England come out as 6-0 winners. It was definitely a learning experience for Northern Ireland but it also gave Hege Riise (England’s interim manager) a chance to give players their England debuts and to see the team in action!
Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels said the result didn’t matter and it was all about finding out about each other and understanding how they want to play. “I was disappointed we didn’t get enough around their half of the pitch, because we lost the toss and they had the gale-force wind on their back and that took away our opportunity to get some confidence.”
In the second half though the wind was on Northern Ireland’s side but due to the fact they had so many part-time players playing, they had used up their energy.
It was a very special game for Jill Scott as it was her 150th England appearance and she was also given the captains armband. “I think the performance by the girls was brilliant, there were some stand out performances from Ellen White, Lucy Bronze and I thought Georgia Stanway had a great game as well.”
“It’s important that we stick to the processes, we said today that we were never going to underestimate Northern Ireland but we’re preparing for when we play the best teams in the World and we have to stick to doing the right things.”
Midfielder Georgia Stanway took on a new role of playing as a number 4, she felt comfortable on the ball and it was an opportunity to show that she is a versatile player. “I’ve played in many different positions and that’s just something else which is a different challenge for me. I enjoyed getting on the ball and I enjoy tackling so I was able to get involved and I was able to try and win the ball back for the girls.”
Keira Walsh wasn’t available for team selection as she picked up a thigh injury in training. Stanway did however say she had been asking her for tips before the game! “I was working closely with Keira pre-game just to try and get a few tips on what I need to do. She was teaching me, just about positioning and what to do/not what to do and giving me the confidence I needed to go into today.”
Ellen White got her first-ever England hat trick and she was extremely happy to be playing for England after not having a game in a long time. “I was literally just running around with a smile on my face! It’s been a long time coming. To play for England, to get my first hat trick, Jill to get 150 caps, 4 debuts, that’s pretty decent for an England game.”
When asked about Hege Riise, White had positive things to say. “She’s lovely! I’m excited to get to know her a little bit more off the pitch. I’m excited to see more of her ideas and what she wants to bring to this England side. It’s a stepping stone at the moment but we are on the right journey and the right path at the moment. So I think it is going to be a really exciting journey!”
It was a great start for Hege Riise who managed her first game today. “I think we put on a really good performance. You see the character they (the team) put on today, they were fighting for ninety minutes. All the subs coming in seemed comfortable. There was a good connection between the players.”
Sandy MacIver made her England debut as well as Bristol City’s Ebony Salmon, Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy, and Manchester United’s Ella Toone. England were awarded a penalty in the second half which Toone scored, meaning she got a goal on her debut. Riise said Ella had a “good debut.” She was also asked about Ebony making her debut. “Ebony coming in, you can see that she can adapt, she still has some work to do, like the pace of the game.”