Ireland held out for 60 minutes against a superior England Under-21 side, before Stephen O’Halloran deflected James Milner’s low cross into his own net.
James Milner scored one and should be given credit for another
But it really should have been Milner’s goal since the deflection was slight, to say the least, but that was the breakthrough the England side needed, to register their 6th win in 7 games in their group play and almost assure themselves of a play-off spot in the next phase of the European Under-21 Championships for 2008.
The pitch at St. Mary’s in Southampton was a little soggy, and affected England’s slick passing game in the first half, and with some good solid defending from the young Irishman, they ensured the scores were still 0-0 at the break.
England came out attacking in the second half and it was Newcastle’s James Milner’s effort that caused the breakthrough, although why James wasn’t given the goal is a bit of a mystery to us. We think they’re going too far with own goals these days.
Just to show he can still put them in with no help, the impressive Milner scored England’s second, with a beautiful low drive to the goalkeeper’s right, after 68 minutes.
The scoring was complete when Theo Walcott, who was a former Southampton player, scored an excellent third goal, as England caught Ireland short at the back, with a quick breakaway.
But it still took a terrific save from young Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart to keep the clean sheet, as he beat out a shot that looked like a certain goal. This boy looks better every time we see him and he’s just still 20.
In the 7 games England have played in the group, Hart has conceded a single goal, and that was a penalty in their last game in Portugal, when they drew 1-1. That’s also the only points England have dropped in the tournament qualifying rounds, with just one game to play against Portugal in a few months time.
Steven Taylor – England captain looked solid as a rock tonight
Wheater and Taylor looked sold at the heart of the England defense, and surely England must stand a good chance of winning this tournament in the summer. The side is packed full of players with Premiership experience like Taylor, Milner, Hart, Wheater, Huddlestone, Lennon, Walcott and Gardner – amongst others.
One player who impressed, and would be an excellent acquisition for Newcastle United, was young Joe Mattock of Leicester City, who is just 17 years old, and looks a future star in the making. He played left back tonight and looked very solid.
Mattock currently plays for Leicester City and stands 5’11” tall, and could still be growing. He plays as a left back or left sided midfielder, and has represented England at under 15, 16, 17, 19 and 21 levels.
We hope Dennis Wise, or one of our other recruitment executives, was either at the game or watching the game on TV. Let’s get this boy, now, before some other club beats us to him.
He’s played 22 times for Leicester City since making his senior debut in a 2-1 defeat to Norwich City on 14th April 2007.
But overall another good performance from the England boys tonight. Who says we haven’t got any talent coming through the ranks? We could even win this tournament for the first time since 1984, we are looking that good.
England U-21 coach Stuart Pearce said after the game:
“I think this win will be enough to take us into the play-offs, we feel this will get us there.”
“I’m delighted with my team. It took us a while to break them down but we learned how to be patient.”
“We never looked liked conceding and had a good cutting edge going forward.”
An excellent crowd of over 31,000 was at St. Mary’s to watch the game, and it was certainly worth watching, especially in the second half.
Hart, Gardner, Wheater, Taylor, Mattock, Lennon, Noble (Surman 85), Muamba, Huddlestone (Jerome 79), Milner, Walcott (Johnson 85).
Subs Not Used: Lewis, Mancienne, Moore, O’Hara.
Booked: Wheater, Johnson.
Goals: O’Halloran 60 og, Milner 68, Walcott 78.
Randolph, Nolan, O’Cearuill, O’Dea, O’Halloran, O’Toole, Garvan, Quinn (Morris 83), Stokes (O’Brien 87), Clarke (Rooney 65), Andrew Keogh.
Subs Not Used: Supple, Richard Keogh, Dennehy, McFaul.
Ref: Jouni Hyytia (Finland).