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ENGLAND scored six without reply against Northern Ireland today, recording their first home win in 21 months.
Hege Riise’s first game in temporary charge of the squad saw the Lionesses dominate the opposition at a blustery St George’s Park.
The Norwegian coach sprung few surprises, naming an experienced starting line-up that included eight Manchester City players and left the six uncapped players on the bench.
The captain’s armband was handed over to Jill Scott as she made her 150th appearance.
It was she who created the first chance of the game in the fifth minute, slipping through Ellen White who hesitated and saw her effort smothered by Northern Ireland's goalkeeper Becky Flaherty.
Moments later, Flaherty blocked a typical Lucy Bronze header from a set piece. But with England pressing high against a team encamped in their own half, goals seemed inevitable.
Saying that, it took a defensive mistake for White to break the deadlock.
At the 18th minute, the forward side-footed the ball into the far corner after pouncing upon a loose pass out from the back by Chloe McCarron.
Five minutes later, White glanced home a near-post header after Bronze surged down the right wing in England’s first counter-attack of the match. Bronze then slid the ball in from close-range after a run down the left by Lauren Hemp.
Manchester United's Ella Toone, one of four players given their debut in the second half, made an immediate impact playing White through for a chance to complete her hat-trick which she narrowly missed.
The Man City striker did not have long for another opportunity however, slamming the ball high into the net after latching onto a through pass from Scott.
West Ham’s Rachel Daly tapped home following yet another right-wing surge by Bronze before the impressive Toone grabbed the ball after Chloe Kelly was brought down to slot home the sixth from the penalty spot.
Riise, who said “the performance was excellent,” was particularly impressed with the impact of Toone and her ability to link the play.
“She had a good second half. Her passing, her vision for the game, she made it easy to find the pockets.
“She did that easily, one touch into Georgia (Stanway). They can turn and we can run at them. She had two or three of those and her footwork, covering space – that was a good debut.”
Most of the plaudits were understandably reserved for Scott who seemed overwhelmed by the volume of well wishes she has received from around the country.
“I got a letter from Prince William, it was actually hand-written and sent to my house. I even got a video message from David Beckham. He was always a player I looked up to. I always loved how he was with the fans.
“It just seems surreal. Although people say about my hard work on the pitch, the most pleasing thing is when they say they’ve maybe met us and I’ve been nice to them or I’ve gone that extra mile. I think that’s what means the most to us.”
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