A clinical display of finishing helped England U19s secure a well-earned 3-0 victory against Turkey and extended their unbeaten run to 15 games.
On a crisp and cold night in Chester a first-half strike by U19s debutant Devante Cole - son of former England striker Andrew Cole - and a quickfire double from Lewis Baker and then Callum Robinson in the second, gave England the victory their confident dynamic play richly deserved.
The victory also ensured Blake’s side go into May’s Elite Round of qualification for the UEFA U19 European Championship with four wins out of five for the current crop in the 1995 year-group.
England got off to a positive start and Chelsea midfielder John Swift - the outstanding performer of the first half – was a constant threat to the Turkish defence, playing in advanced midfield role behind the front three of Cole, Sam Gallagher and Josh Murphy.
England 3-0 Turkey
Swansway Chester Stadium
Wednesday 5 March
And it was Cole and Swift who looked the most potent combination, with a series of neat interplays and clever exchanges that Turkey struggled to contain.
After a couple of close shaves, the combination of Cole and Swift broke through.
Swift picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty box, beat his man and played a delightful looping ball directly into the path of Cole who, without the need for a touch, let it bounce once and rifled across Ibrahim Demir in the Turkey goal and into the bottom corner. It was a finish his famous father would have been proud of.
England remained in control of the game after going ahead, and on 41 minutes almost scored what would have been one of the team goals of the season.
Swift was again at the centre of the action and again he linked well with Cole.
The pair have never played together before but continued their seemingly telepathic understanding. Swift found Cole on the right, Cole played it back into the playmaker’s path – he beat his man with ease and fired his shot just wide of Akkan’s near post. It would have been some goal.
But the Young Lions did not have to wait long to extend their lead – and put the game to bed in a four-minute spell in the second half.
Gallagher latched on to a Murphy pass and the athletic forward beat his man but was hauled down in the box. Chelsea’s Baker – and captain for the second half – took the spot-kick and sent the keeper the wrong way.
And on 63 minutes substitute Robinson took advantage of a mixup in the Turkey defense – and the Aston Villa man pounded to fire a low shot that squirmed under the body of Demir and into the net.
It was Robinson’s second strike in as many appearances for the U19s, who now prepare to welcome Scotland, Montenegro and Ukraine to England for the final qualifying round of UEFA’s U19 European Championship.
England U19s: (4-3-3) 1 Mitchell Beeney (Chelsea); 5 Ola Aina (Chelsea), 2 Calum Chambers (c) (Southampton), 6 Shay Facey (Manchester City), 3 Matthew Targett (Southampton); 4 Isaac Hayden (Arsenal), 7 John Swift (Chelsea), 8 Lewis Baker (Chelsea); 11 Josh Murphy (Norwich City), 9 Sam Gallagher (Southampton), 10 Devante Cole (Manchester City).
Substitutes: 12 Harrison Reed (Southampton) for Chambers 46; 14 Callum Robinson (Aston Villa) for Cole 58; 15 Dominic Ball (Tottenham Hotspur) for Swift 58; 16 Alex Mowatt (Leeds United) for Gallagher 67; 17 Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill (Arsenal) for Targett 67; 18 Paul Digby (Barnsley) for Murphy 67; 13 Christian Walton (Brighton & Hove Albion) for Beeney 76.
Goals: Cole (22), Baker (59 pen), Robinson (63)
Bookings: Robinson, Baker
Turkey U19s (4-4-2): 12 Ibrahim Demir; 11 Emre Tasdemir, 5 Fethi Ozer, 4 Ertugrul Ersoy, 2 Ozan Tufan; 6 Taylan Antalyali, 13 Dogan Erdogan, 10 Recep Niyaz (c), 7 Sevki Cinar; 9 Mustafa Batuhan Altinbas.
Substitutes: 14 Hasan Ayaroglu for Cinar 46; 18 Muhammed Ali Dogan for Erogan 64; 16 Atabey Cicek for Antalyali 76;
Substitutes not used: 1 Gokhan Akkan, 3 Batuhan Isciler, 8 Oguzhan Kayer, , 17 Furkan Emre Unver,.
Bookings: Erdogan, Niyaz
Referee: Tony Harrington