'We lacked a cutting edge', says U20s boss Keith Downing

Monday 07 Sep 2015
England U20s head coach Keith Downing

England Under-20s boss Keith Downing believes his side were only lacking a killer touch in defeat to the Czech Republic before declaring himself satisfied with the performance.

Downing’s first game in charge had resulted in a 5-0 victory over the Czechs behind closed doors at St George’s Park on Saturday, but England were frustrated at Greenhous Meadow on Monday despite a succession of chances.

Manchester City’s Brandon Barker, Sheffield United’s Che Adams and on-loan Coventry City midfielder Bryn Morris – who was also skipper on the night – all had golden opportunities, while Birmingham winger Demarai Gray was hugely influential in attack.

England 0-1 Czech Republic

Under-20s International match
Greenhous Meadow, Shrewsbury
Monday 7 September 2015

But ultimately Jakub Yunis’ 11th-minute strike separated the two teams – and Downing admits his side have learned an important lesson.

“It is funny. We’ve probably replicated the game on Saturday with the performance, but they obviously get the goal early on,” he said.

“Credit to them, they defended really well and got bodies in the box and protected their goal as best they could. We just didn’t have that cutting edge tonight as we did on Saturday.

“We didn’t break the back line, and because there were so many there, they obviously retreated to their 18-yard box.

“It was always difficult to get in behind. Maybe we could have done a little better in wide areas, to try to create overloads and things.

Demarai Gray tries to hurdle a Czech challenge

Demarai Gray tries to hurdle a Czech challenge

“We just didn’t have the rub of the green a little bit when it was bouncing around the 18 yard box as well.

“Obviously a goal is something to cling on to for them, and I thought we got a little bit anxious in the first half, I thought we got a little bit safe.

“But in the second half, we showed a bit more positivity, we went forward and played forward, and tried to create a few chances.”

Downing, who was appointed head coach in July, made eight changes to his side following Saturday’s victory after there were several withdrawals from the squad.

Brandon Barker on the ball for England U20s

Brandon Barker on the ball for England U20s

And the former Cheltenham Town manager insists vital building blocks have been put in place during his first week of contact time with the squad.

“All in all, we’ve been together for eight days, this is the first time that we’ve come together as a staff and some players, so I’m really pleased with the progress that we’ve made in that time,” added Downing.

“Yes, it’s tinged with a bit of disappointment to lose, no one likes losing, but over an eight-day situation I think we’ve come on well, and people have got to know each other, and we’ve gelled well.”

At Greenhous Meadow, Shrewsbury