Pearce ready for Play-Off pursuit
Tuesday, 11 September, 2012
Under-21s Head Coach pleased with Monday's performance as he plots Play-Off charge.
England Under-21s Head Coach Stuart Pearce hailed the discipline of his side after their slender 1-0 victory over Norway at Chesterfield saw them secure top spot in Group Eight.
Sunderland striker Connor Wickham’s neat first-half finish proved to be enough to clinch all three points for Pearce’s side.
The Young Lions will now be seeded in the Play-Offs for the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, and Pearce admits his players had to overcome a tough test to defeat a tricky Norwegian team.
Pearce said: “It was a very bitty game – credit to Norway, they came here and tried to win the game and tried to win the group. And they put us on the back-foot and looked the team more likely to put us under pressure.
“I’ve got to be pleased over the eight days we’ve been together. We’ve been halfway to Asia and won a game, come back without conceding and we’ve done the same tonight.
“There were some really sterling performances within our ranks. Danny Rose has been brilliant over the whole week and two games, Martin Kelly had a strong performance as well. The two central defenders and both goalies we’ve used have been very good and we just have to learn. This was a tough test for us, and I think it’ll stand us in good stead when the draw is made and we get together next month.”
The draw for the Play-Offs will be made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Friday and Pearce will be there to see who his team is paired up with for the final hurdle on the way to the Finals in Israel next summer and the former Nottingham Forest star has been weighing up all of his options.
"I've studied those league tables on a daily basis for the last two seasons," he admitted.
"Before [the Norway game] we knew exactly all the possible outcomes for us and the teams we could get.
"I wouldn't have wanted Norway to come out of the group with us if I'm being honest, as that would have given us more of a chance of getting a runner-up - not that that particularly makes it easier for you as two years ago all four runners-up went to the Finals having beaten group winners.
"So there is a word of caution there as there are plenty of things that can go against you - players' fitness and availability and so on.
"All the play-off fixtures will be tight affairs as everyone wants to be at those Finals and we have two years' work rapped up in eight days in October now."
Meanwhile, defender Rose, who was named man of the match, echoed his manager’s sentiments on the result in Chesterfield.
“We did well to get three points,” said Rose.
“We didn’t play as well as we’d like, and as well as we did in Azerbaijan but the objective tonight was to get three points and finish top of the group so we can’t complain.
“The gaffer said Norway were a very good team and we’ve seen that tonight. We were very lucky to keep a clean sheet, but it’s a job well done. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes.”