Stuart Pearce says that patience was the key as his Under-21s side beat the Republic of Ireland.
2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifier
7.45pm, Tuesday 5 February 2008
St.Mary's Stadium, Southampton FC
Live on Sky Sports
Stuart Pearce says that patience was the key as his Under-21s side scored three times in the last half an hour to beat the Republic of Ireland and virtually seal their place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs.
England need only a draw against Portugal in their final game in September to win Group Three, but with 19 points on the board already from the seven games played this season, they are almost certain to finish as one of the four best runners up across the 14 groups.
And against a skilfull and slick-passing Irish side at Southampton, England had their work cut out to get the win they wanted as the visitors did enough to keep them at bay. But two goals from James Milner on 60 and 68, and another from Theo Walcott, playing back at St Mary’s for the first time since he scored in a 4-3 win over MK Dons in January 2006, gave the sell-out crowd something to cheer and satisfied Coach Pearce.
“The strength of our team showed, we’re strong at the back and difficult to break down,” he said. “With the passing range we have in midfield and the pace we have up top, we always have a chance against anybody.
“We found it particularly difficult in the home qualifiers, more so than in the away ones, because I think we are quite good one the counter attack. We’re just going to have to learn to be a bit more patient and move the ball a bit quicker when we are at home.
He continued: “As often is the case, they come and put men behind the ball and it’s hard to find space. But sometimes you have to play an hour’s football and the game then starts to get stretched. Once the game opened up and we got our noses in front, all of a sudden the edge was there and the Republic had to come out at us.”
Despite suffering a 3-0 defeat to England in Cork in October, Ireland were keen to get some credit for two accomplished displays. They twice forced fine saves from Joe Hart, and had the first effort from Sunderland forward Anthony Stokes when the scores were level found a way past the Manchester City keeper, it could have been a much harder night for the Three Lions.
“Credit to them, they’ve given us two tough games and I think the score lines have in some ways flattered us. From my point of view I’ve got to be delighted with the performance, the result and the application of all our players.
“Got to give praise to our goalkeeper, too. He stands up and says ‘beat me’. His body language tells you that and if that goes in the net, then it’s more and more difficult. But that’s international football and that’s the experience these players will get from it. The games when teams turn up and show you great respect, you have to wait a long time for a goal, maybe even the last minute to win a match, but that’s football at this level.
“As there wasn’t much room in the middle of the pitch, the midfield three tended to drop to pick the ball of the defence, so when we did get forward there was no one in and around the box to finish off some of the decent crosses we put in.
"I think in the second half they changed, it opened up and we looked a different side. That happens at this level and as a manager you’re sat there playing 3-5-1 at home and thinking ‘shall I get the extra striker on’, but it was right to be patient."
Pearce added: “We’re into the play-offs with a game to spare and I’ve got a couple of friendlies to have a look at the fringe players who have been very patient in being part of the squad. Now they can have a chance of some football and stake a claim at being in the starting eleven.”
The former England full-back joins up with the senior squad on Wednesday as part of Fabio Capello’s back room team and said he’ll be reporting back to the England Manager on a number of players who stood out, but he didn’t name names.
“Franco Baldini, Fabio’s immediate assistant, was at the game and he was introduced to the players and straight away they can see there’s a link into the seniors.
“I think there are a few in the squad, and I won’t name them, who performed well tonight and will be worth a recommendation, but I’ll certainly talk through all the players in the squad.”
1 Joe Hart (Manchester City), 2 Craig Gardner (Aston Villa), 3 Joe Mattock (Leicester City), 4 Mark Noble (West Ham United) (17 Andrew Surman (Southampton), 86), 5 Steven Taylor (c) (Newcastle United), 6 David Wheater (Middlesbrough), 7 James Milner (Newcastle United), 8 Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham Hotspur) (15 Cameron Jerome (Birmingham City), 79), 9 Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), 10 Fabrice Muamba (Birmingham City), 11 Theo Walcott (Arsenal) (14 Adam Johnson (Middlesbrough), 86)
Subs not used 13 Joe Lewis (Peterborough United), 12 Michael Mancienne (QPR), 16 Luke Moore (Aston Villa), 18 Jamie O'Hara (Tottenham Hotspur)
Bookings Fabrice Muamba 19
Coach Stuart Pearce
Republic of Ireland
1 Darren Randolph (Charlton Athletic), 2 Eddie Nolan (Blackburn Rovers), 3 Stephen O’Halloran (Southampton), 4 Joe O’Cearuill (Barnet), 5 Darren O’Dea (c) (Celtic), 6 Stephen Quinn (Sheffield United) (13 Ian Morris, 83), 7 Owen Garvan (Ipswich Town), 8 John-Joe O’Toole (Watford), 9 Andy Keogh (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 10 Anthony Stokes (Sunderland) (14 Jim O’Brien (Celtic), 87), 11 Billy Clarke (Ipswich Town) (18 Adam Rooney (Chesterfield), 65)
Subs not used 16 Shane Supple (Ipswich Town), 12 Richard Keogh (Bristol City), 15 Darren Dennehy (Everton), 17 Shane McFaul
Bookings Owen Garvan 63
Coach Sean McCaffrey
Referee Jouni Hyytia (Finland)
Assistants Tiejo Kotinurmi and Jouko Ikonen (Finland)
Fourth Official Mattias Gestranius (Finland)