England Women head coach Phil Neville maintained the hard work must start now to get his side back to their best after battling through the snow to beat the Czech Republic 3-2 in Ceske Budejovice.
Neville had called for a response to lift the group following the defeat by Germany at a packed Wembley, which was the fourth since losing in the World Cup semi-finals.
England, though, paid for another lacklustre start as Tereza Szewieczkova put the hosts in front after 15 minutes.
The Lionesses replied with two goals in the space of three minutes through Beth England and Arsenal’s Beth Mead, only for Slavia Prague forward Szewieczkova to equalise just before the half-hour with a 25-yard effort.
Just when it looked like England were going to be frustrated in the wretched conditions, defender Leah Williamson saw her shot from the edge of the penalty area deflected into the far corner for a first international goal to make sure the year ended on a positive.
“We got the win I think that was what I demanded for the team. I’ve got to say I think we should be beating the Czech Republic by more than three goals to two,” Neville said.
“We dominated the second half, were careless a little bit in possession in terms of the final pass, the final run, the final cross – but I suppose it is the last game of the year, we wanted to finish on some kind of win and we did that.”
🇨🇿🏴 The match is over in České Budějovice and @Lionesses won 3-2 over @zenyfotbal thanks to a late goal by Leah Williamson. pic.twitter.com/DwNgz4p2Ca— Czech Football Team (@ceskarepre_eng) November 12, 2019
Neville added on BBC Sport: “The players have put an unbelievable effort in this past 12 months. We know the last three months haven’t been good enough for myself or the team, we know that, and we take responsibility for that.
“We shouldn’t take anything away from the last 12 months in terms of where we have taken women’s football and the Lionesses.
“Now the real hard work begins for myself and the players in terms of coming back after Christmas when we go to (the) She Believes (Cup) and to perform to the levels which I believe and they believe we can.”
England were without captain Steph Houghton, Alex Greenwood, Jodie Taylor and Ellen White as Neville looked to both manage player fitness and utilise his squad.
Chelsea goalkeeper Carly Telford replaced Mary Earps as one of five changes from the Germany game, with Demi Stokes, Millie Bright, Lucy Staniforth and Blues forward England all coming in.
Ahead of Tuesday night’s match, Neville said he took full responsibility for his side’s recent run of “unacceptable” poor performances.
While the end result may have been a morale-boost, Neville is expecting more when the squad come together again in early 2020.
“It is just important to win games of football. When I came into the job I said winning was the most important thing, and I still believe that,” said Neville, who was appointed as head coach in January 2018.
“The conditions were difficult, but I think what I’m really looking forward to now is the hard work that now begins in terms of getting us back up to a level where we know we can (be).”
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