Football: Pitcher brims with dashing flair

England semi-pro XI 2 Wales semi-pro XI 1
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WITH RATHER less at stake at Clarence Park yesterday than at Wembley on Saturday, the semi-professional footballers of England and Wales nevertheless gave their all in a non-league international that extended England's unbeaten record under their new coach, John Owens, to four games.

Owens gave a first cap to Geoff Pitcher, who rewarded him with a second England goal, a crisply taken volley that completed a marvellous finale to the season for the Kingstonian midfielder, voted man of the match after his club's victorious FA Trophy final eight days earlier. "He's got such a good motor," enthused Owens.

England were helped in no small way by a quintet from the Nationwide Conference champions, Cheltenham, all of whom may be playing their last international at this level. "I told the Cheltenham lads that, if they want their next England shirt, they will have to impress Kevin Keegan," Owens said.

It was after the outstanding Cheltenham player, Neil Grayson, had dispossessed the Welsh defender David Barnhouse to embark on a long run towards goal that England took a 29th-minute lead. Chasing back, Barnhouse got his legs tangled up with Grayson, who went down. Warren Patmore converted the penalty and Pitcher's goal followed 13 minutes later after Patmore had nodded back a cross from Chris Banks.

The complacency that had reduced England's post-interval momentum disappeared once yet another Cheltenham player, goalkeeper Steve Book, had allowed Gary Shepherd's spectacular hook shot to beat him on the bounce after 53 minutes. Amidst a welter of substitutions, England regained the initiative in the later stages after surviving a close-range header from the lively Deniol Graham, once of Manchester United.

ENGLAND: Book (Cheltenham); Banks (Cheltenham), Smith (Stevenage), Ryan (Southport), Williams (Nuneaton), Yates (Cheltenham), Butterworth (Rushden), Pitcher (Kingstonian), Wormull (Dover), Patmore (Yeovil), Grayson (Cheltenham). Substitutes: Gothard (Dagenham) for Book, 84; Comyn (Hednesford) for Ryan, 74; Stott (Yeovil) for Yates, 84; Howells (Cheltenham) for Pitcher, 84; Charles (Hayes) for Wormull, 84.

WALES: Wager (Inter Cardiff); O'Brien (Cwmbran), Barnhouse (Carmarthen), Lima (Newport); Andrew Thomas (Connah's Quay), Williams (Aberystwyth), Congerton (Colwyn Bay), Needs (Merthyr Tydfil), Lloyd (Caersws), Graham (Colwyn Bay), Shepherd (Merthyr Tydfil). Substitutes: N Thomas (Merthyr Tydfil) for Wager, 80; Anuerin Thomas (Aberystwyth) for Lima, h-t; Reynolds (Newtown) for Congerton, 69; N Davies (Inter) for Needs, 59; M Davies (Cwmbran) for Shepherd, 62.

Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay).