Fate can work in strange and mysterious ways. If it weren’t for Theo Walcott’s injury, forcing him off the pitch and into the studio for last night’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Montenegro, Andros Townsend might have been left wondering what might have been.
As it was, manager Roy Hodgson was bold and gave the Tottenham winger his chance, and boy did he take it. What followed was a fearless and thoroughly exciting performance from England’s new number seven, capped off by an outstanding solo goal and the Man of the Match award. All on his full senior debut for The Three Lions.
Almost as soon as the game had kicked off, Townsend was already impressing, making bold darting runs directly at the Montenegrin defence and linking up well with England’s front two of Rooney and Sturridge. Despite occasionally losing the ball, the young winger was not deterred and continued to threaten.
England had several chances, but were unable to break down a Montenegro’s tough defensive unit. Townsend tested the keeper from distance, but Rooney was unable to finish the rebound. Frustrations mounted around Wembley as the game reached half time scoreless.
However, the anxious England fans didn’t have long to wait. Just three minutes after the restart the Three Loins were ahead. The chance was again forged by the exuberant and direct running of Townsend from the right, who beat two defenders and drilled the ball into the box. Welbeck’s shot was saved, but this time Rooney made no mistake. 1-0 England.
After a brief nervy period in which Hart was called into action, saving a Damjanovic’s header, England doubled their lead under fortuitous circumstances. The Montenegrin Boskovic expertly turning a Welbeck cutback into his own net. Jack Wilshere, watching on from the substitutes bench, was said to be furious!
Despite the scoreline, England didn’t look at ease, and things suddenly became uncomfortable when Montenegro grabbed a goal back; Damjanovic turning in a misplaced shot from Fatos Beqiraj.
Just as the tension was beginning to mount inside the stadium, Townsend took matters into his own hands and settled the contest. Picking up the ball from a Welbeck pass, he surged forward and drilled home from 25 yards on his weaker foot.
Daniel Sturridge won and converted a penalty in the latter stages, but in truth the game, and the night, belonged to Townsend.
After nine loan spells away from parent club Tottenham, the pure joy across the youngster’s face as he wheeled away to celebrate was plain to see. He has matured and developed as a player, and looks a real force to contend with this season. Theo Walcott ought to be worried.
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