Under-21 Captain Steven Taylor knows there is still work to be done if England are to qualify for the 2009 Euro's.
2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Play-Off Second Leg
7.45pm, Tuesday 14 October 2008
Villa Park, Aston Villa FC
England Under-21 Captain, Steven Taylor, is fully aware that The Three Lions' European Championship Play-Off with Wales is still in the balance, despite heading into the second leg with a 3-2 lead.
Simon Church gave Wales a 13th minute lead in the first leg at Ninian Park, taking advantage of an unlucky Taylor ricochet, but a header from David Wheater and a fine strike from Wheater's Middlesbrough team-mate, Adam Johnson, put England into a 2-1 lead.
Church levelled just before half-time, but a cheeky flick from Gabriel Agbonlahor restored England's one-goal advantage which they take to Villa Park on Tuesday night.
"We’re in a similar position to two years ago when we qualified for the European Championship in Holland," Taylor explained.
"We met Germany in the Play-Off then, and won the first leg 1-0 at home. We went out there and showed a lot of character. Theo Walcott came on near the end and his pace caused Germany problems and he got two late goals to send us to the Finals.
"So after narrowly winning the first leg, we still had to put a big effort to get the result overall. The same applies on Tuesday night," he insisted.
Stuart Pearce's Under-21 side had only conceded only one goal - a penalty against Portugal - in their eight group matches en route to this Play-Off and after conceding twice in the first-half against Wales, Taylor knows England can improve defensively.
"We were disappointed with our first-half performance in Cardiff," he admits. "We sat too deep and gave them far too much time on the ball. But give Wales credit, they played very well and made it hard for us. They created the better chances and took their goals very well.
"We don’t often concede but I was particularly frustrated to see their first goal go in. Michael Mancienne put in a great tackle on the edge of the box, but the ball ricocheted off my leg and went straight into the path of Simon Church who put the ball away.
"But we have a never-say-die attitude in this team, which was demonstrated when we came back to score two good goals to get our noses in front. I was pleased that David Wheater scored his first for the Under-21s with his header, and Adam Johnson showed skill and composure to finish his. Wales didn’t give up though, and when they levelled just before half-time, we knew we had to step it up after the break."
England did improve after the interval, retaining possession a lot better and exploiting the space on both flanks; indeed switching the ball from left to right created the third goal for Agbonlahor and Taylor reveals his pleasure with the second 45 minutes.
"We were much better in the second half. We passed the ball the way we can do and made them have to work a lot harder. We began to stretch them at the back and found space down both wings. Gabriel Agbonlahor’s back heel from a Mark Noble cross won the game, but a one-goal lead in a two-legged contest can often be fragile."
It was Agbonloahor's deft finish that has provided England with the minimum advantage, but Taylor is confident he can lead the Under-21s to the European Championship in Sweden next year.
"We know this Play-Off is far from over. We’ve still got a job to do and we feel we have enough quality to win the game. If we work hard and play the football we are capable of then we can achieve the result we want."