Keith Nobbs played 368 Football League matches for Hartlepool, Halifax and Middlesbrough, and scored two goals. His daughter Jordan inherited his legendary competitiveness, but fortunately not his blind eye for goal.
On Saturday the Arsenal midfielder scored her second spectacular long-range strike in a fortnight, sparking an impressive 4-0 win for England against Euro 2017 rivals Switzerland in Biel.
Two weeks after lashing a 35-yard free-kick past Manchester City Nobbs produced a dipping drive from the junction of the penalty area. Nobbs also created a brace for club team-mate Jodie Taylor while Chelsea’s Fran Kirby scored to mark her long-awaited return from injury.
“We wanted to use the match as a springboard,” said manager Mark Sampson, “and I’m delighted to get that level of performance. The longer it went on the more in control we were. We created chances, we scored goals, we were compact and disciplined at the back. The Swiss are a good side and it is an excellent result.” Of Nobbs he added: “Jordan is paying exceptionally well for club and country. It was a great goal and she was at the heart of a lot of good attacking moves.”
“It is always in my mind to shoot when I get near goal,” said Nobbs. “I’m feeling very confident at the moment. It is an exciting time. We looked really sharp and dominated the game. To be scoring goals and playing like that gives us a confidence boost.”
If the European Championships, in the Netherlands next month, goes with seeding the teams will meet in the quarter-finals and Nobbs added: “If it knocks the Swiss if they play us, good, but you can’t take anything for granted in tournament football.”
The hosts were without their star player, Chelsea forward Ramona Bachmann, absent with a muscle injury incurred in training, but Sampson argued his team did such a good job cutting the supply to the Swiss attack she would have made little difference. They occasionally looked vulnerable to balls played behind the full-backs early on, but once Nobbs scored the visitors dominated.
If there was a weakness in the English display it was finishing. Taylor headed a dangerous Demi Stokes cross too close to the keeper and, after Taylor had closed down Swiss ’keeper Gaelle Thalmann, Kirby hit the bar from 20 yards when shooting towards an unguarded goal.
But then, on the half-hour, came Nobbs’ strike, set up by Stokes’ lay-off. Ten minutes later a crunching tackle by Steph Houghton sent the ball over the Swiss backline and Kirby outpaced Jana Brunner before rounding Thalmann. The goal was a relief for a striker who, due to injury, last played for England in March 2016. “It’s great to have Fran back in an England shirt and scoring,” said Sampson. “That she put the miss out of her mind, then scored the next chance, is the sign of a top player.”
The second half was a succession of England chances. Toni Duggan hit the post in the 46th minute, Thalmann denied Kirby in the 47th, then, from Nobbs’ square pass in the 49th, Taylor steered a left-foot shot inside the far post from the edge of the area.
The same combination produced the fourth goal on the hour, Taylor sending her shot inside the same post but this time right-footed from Nobbs’ cut-back. Though Sampson then made six changes, including a debut for Mary Earps, England remained in command. This should have resulted in more goals but Karen Carney, Nikita Parris and Jo Potter all missed excellent chances.
The only blot for England was a booking for Parris for diving. “I spoke to Keets after the game,” said Sampson. “She’s a young player, still learning, but needs to tidy that up a bit. She should have stayed up and tried to put it in the back of the net.”
The squad takes a break now, ahead of a final friendly in Denmark on July 1 before starting Euro 2017 against Scotland on July 19. “The Euros can’t come soon enough for us,” said Nobbs.
England (4-4-2): Bardsley (Man City); Bronze (Man City), Houghton (Man City), Bright (Chelsea), Stokes (Man City); Nobbs (Arsenal), Moore (Reading), J Scott (Man City), Duggan (Manr City); Taylor (Arsenal), Kirby (Chelsea)
Substitutes: Potter (Reading) for Bright 63, Bassett (Unattached) for Houghton 63, Carney (Chelsea) for Kirby 63, Williams (Arsenal) for Moore 63, Parris (Man City) for Taylor, Earps (Reading) for Bardsley 75
Goals: Nobbs 30, Kirby 40, Taylor 50, 62.
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