Encouraged despite defeat for England

DESPITE Saturday’s defeat, like many other people, I was quite encouraged by England’s performance against Italy in their opening World Cup game.

The team retained possession pretty well and created more chances than Italy. Roy Hodgson’s brave decision to throw in Raheem Sterling paid off and the forward players caused the Italians problems.

If they play like that against Uruguay tonight and Costa Rica on Tuesday, I’d be surprised if England didn’t win both games, but consistency of performance has never been a strong point for our national side.

It wasn’t all news good news. England looked vulnerable down the flanks and Steven Gerrard had a poor game, but the positives certainly outweighed the negatives.

As far as anyone can gather, Hodgson looks set to field the same team against Uruguay tonight, much to the dissatisfaction of a growing group of people who feel that Wayne Rooney no longer deserves a place in the side.

Personally, I don’t really understand the anti-Rooney lobby that has built up. He may not have always been at his best for the national side, but he remains our most talented player, just look at the part he played in the goal on Saturday.

I have to admit that I didn’t really understand why he was asked to play on the left wing, when that is a more natural position for Sterling and if the two are swapped, as seems likely, we should see a better performance from Rooney tonight.

Whether that will compromise Sterling’s game, we will have to wait and see.

Apart from the Liverpool man, Danny Welbeck was the player who impressed me most against Italy. I would have liked Adam Lallana in the team ahead of him, but the Manchester United forward had a really good game, troubling the Italy defence with his pace and helping out Glen Johnson going the other way.

However, I was not so enamoured with Hodgson’s substitutions. His first change, replacing Welbeck with Ross Barkley, was a good one, with the Everton midfielder putting in an impressive cameo.

The decision to bring on Jack Wilshere for Jordan Henderson was okay, but I would have preferred to see a more attacking player introduced as England looked for an equaliser.

Replacing the limping Sturridge with Lallana was the really strange one. Surely Rickie Lambert would have been a better bet?

In the last 10 minutes, with Italy defending deep, Lambert would have offered them something different to think about. Instead, England ran out of ideas and ended up playing in front of the Italians.

Basingstoke Gazette:

An enjoyable afternoon at May's Bounty

HAVING stated that I was looking forward to last Saturday’s match between Basingstoke and North Hants and Hook and Newnham Basics, I’m happy to report that I didn’t come away disappointed.

My prediction of a run-fest proved to be wide of the mark, with overnight storms leaving a bit of dampness in the pitch, and instead, we were treated to an entertaining, but low-scoring game.

I was impressed with the Hook bowling attack. Had Spencer Champ and Gary Binns been at the club in the years when they were in the title hunt, Hook might have won promotion.

Back then, they were seen as a batting team, winning games by scoring more runs than the opposition. This season, they are struggling with the willow in hand, and it’s probably already cost them any chance of challenging for honours.

While Hook bowled well and made the most of the conditions, Basingstoke batted badly, and at the halfway stage, things looked bleak for the Bountymen.

Fortunately for the hosts, the same thing happened in the Hook innings. After an indifferent start, Martyn James and Ryan Connor found their lines and took the key wickets of Jordan Hobday and Ben Thane, while Graham Porter’s pace also caused problems.

They were unlucky to lose Hobday to a poor umpiring decision, but after that, they too batted poorly. There wasn’t much pressure from the scoreboard, but batsmen kept being tempted into shots outside the off stump, and they paid with their wickets.

At the end of the day, the better side won the game, but if Hook manage to get their batsmen in form, the return match later in the season could be a classic.

In terms of sledging, there was a bit of aggro out on the pitch, but it stayed there. It was really nice to see the two teams having a drink together after the match, and I got the feeling that there genuinely were not any hard feelings.

A financially rewarding week for my wife

LAST week, I revealed my plan to get my wife into the World Cup by giving her the chance to win money from me by predicting results.

It worked, in that she now wants to watch every game, but I’m losing money faster than an Icelanic bank! Follow me on Twitter @JBoymanGazette or use #helensworldcup to follow her progress.