Football: Patmore the pride of England's semi-pros

A FIRST-HALF goal from Warren Patmore, the burly Yeovil Town striker, earned England's semi-professional international team a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in Tuesday's friendly in Genemuiden.

The result, which followed last month's 4-1 win over Italy at Hayes, means that the England side have yet to taste defeat this season. They will be seeking to extend that record in the campaign's third and last international, against Wales at St Albans City on Sunday, 23 May.

The squad for the annual game against the Welsh will also represent the Football Association in a fixture against Scotland's Highland League XI on Friday, 21 May, at Chesham United. Among the players hoping to take part in those two matches will be three men who answered late call-ups to face the Dutch this week.

A series of injuries meant that John Owens, the England manager, was unable to re-select the side which beat the Italians. The experienced Cheltenham Town midfielder, Mark Yates, was replaced by Yeovil's captain, Steve Stott, while another Yeovil player, Murray Fishlock, came in for another man from Cheltenham, Dale Watkins. Nuneaton Borough's Barry Williams stood in for Simon Wormull of Dover Athletic.

Patmore had already found the net with a fifth-minute header, which was disallowed for pushing, before he gave England the lead in the 34th minute. Again he used his head, to meet a cross from Doncaster Rovers' right- back Simon Shaw at the far post. The home team equalised in the 51st minute when a long shot was deflected past the Cheltenham goalkeeper, Steve Book.

Owens felt that England had done enough to win. "We controlled the first half, apart from a 15-minute spell," he said, "and although the second half was more even, as the Dutch were more positive, we still created the more promising openings."

Owens was particularly pleased with Patmore, whose goal was his first at international level, and his striking partner, Neil Grayson, of Cheltenham. "They make a very effective pair," the manager said. "When you're constructing a team you look for particular attitudes and a mix of qualities, and they complement each other very well."

Grayson and his Cheltenham team-mates will be concentrating on club rather than international football over the Easter weekend. In one of the biggest Nationwide Conference games of the season, the Gloucestershire side travel to Northamptonshire tomorrow to take on Rushden & Diamonds.

While Cheltenham were winning 1-0 at Emley last weekend to reach the semi-finals of the FA Umbro Trophy, they slipped from first to third place in the Conference as a result of Rushden's 0-0 draw at Kettering. Rushden now lead the league on goal difference from Kettering, with Cheltenham just one point adrift.

Cheltenham have one game in hand on Rushden and four in hand on Kettering, so a home win is vital tomorrow for the Nene Park outfit. "The boys are ready for it," the Diamonds' manager, Brian Talbot, said. "It should be a full house [of around 6,000] and we're looking forward to it."

On Monday Cheltenham entertain Kidderminster Harriers while Rushden travel to Woking. Kettering are away to Leek Town tomorrow and at home to Stevenage Borough two days later.