Harrogate's England Veterans side into World Cup semi-finals
The Harrogate Veterans side flying the flag for their country at the Seniors World Cup in Thailand have reached the semi-finals of the competition.
Paul Bell’s team have been chosen by the Football Association to represent England at the annual tournament for the past 11 years and have lifted the trophy four times, including in 2016 and 2017.
Harrogate’s coaching staff and several of their key players form the core of the group, but their enhancement by several other ex-professionals from around the country has enabled them to compete with other nations who have similar squad profiles.
The reigning champions made a positive start to the defence of their title, beating Scotland at a rain-soaked Hua Hin Stadium.
A cagey start saw both teams test each other out, but England broke the deadlock mid-way through the first half when Lee Elam was brought down in the penalty area and Harrogate regular Peter Beagrie stepped up to convert the resulting penalty.
The goal settled Bell’s men, who began to look more assured as the game went on.
Just after the break, England scored a second when a poor clearance was picked up by Andy Hessenthaler and played on to Rod Thornley, who turned his man on the edge of the box and put Elam through to score.
The Hua Hin crowd, many of whom were local school children, provided a fantastic back drop of noise and colour as the English looked to stamp their authority on the game.
But as the rain started to fall, Scotland rallied, scoring from a set-piece with just under 20 minutes to go to set up a nervy finale.
England managed to hold on for a 2-1 triumph, however, and then went on to book their place in the last-four courtesy of victory over Taiwan.
Ex-Fulham man Barry Hayles opened the scoring, before Beagrie converted his second spot-kick in as many days days.
In the second period, England pressed home their advantage with more good work out wide by Beagrie leading to a spectacular headed goal from captain for the day, Elam.
Thornley grabbed England’s fourth late in the game, but Taiwan battled to the end and pulled one back late on.
Next up for Bell and his men is their final group stage game, which sees them tackle New Zealand.