Goals from Tottehnahm Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Nottingham Forest’s Pat Bamford sealed a win over Czechs. England U19s put on a suitable audition for Head Coach Noel Blake on Tuesday night, maintaining their unbeaten run this season and seeing off the challenge of Czech Republic in their final match before they tackle the Elite Qualifying Round in May.
Whilst the scoreline wasn’t as comfortable as it perhaps could’ve been, Blake and his staff will be pleased with the performance from the Young Lions, who controlled possession throughout and created a number of clear chances.
Blake had told his players before the game that with the Qualifiers on the horizon, this was a chance to prove their worth for a place in the squad and it was clear they were all eyeing up a spot for those three games against Switzerland, Montenegro and Slovenia, which England will host later this year.
In the end, it was left to goals from striker Harry Kane and his second-half replacement Pat Bamford to secure victory but there were opportunities spurned for others across the 90 minutes and that will be one area at which Blake will be looking for improvement.
England had the best of the early efforts, when Luke Garbutt’s wicked free-kick from the left picked out Harry Kane at the far post but his header bounced into the ground and over the bar in the 13th minute.
Kane wasn’t to be denied a second time though, as the Spurs man opened the scoring shortly after the quarter-hour mark. For a change, it was England who hit their opponents on the break as Kane chested the ball down on the half-way line to Ross Barkley. He burst away down the right before sliding the ball back across the area for Kane to control, and then slot into the bottom corner with a classy low finish.
There were nearly 30 minutes on the clock before Sam Johnstone had to make his first save of the game and it was a simple one for him too, as Patrik Twardzik got his head to a cross from 12 yards out but couldn’t muster any real power on the attempt, leaving the Manchester United stopper with an easy catch.
Saido Berahino had a good chance soon after when the ball was worked across the area to him, but Czech ‘keeper Lukas Zima was out quickly to make a good block on the shot.
A well-worked move with half time approaching then saw Berahino link-up with Luke Williams just outside the area, before the ball was laid off to Ross Barkley. He drove a low, angled shot at goal which flew narrowly wide of the far post.
Blake made four switches at the break, with Bamford replacing Kane up front, Jake Bidwell for Garbutt at left-back, Jamaal Lascelles for Nat Chalobah in the middle and Connor Ripley for Johnstone in goal.
Berahino blew a good chance to get himself on the scoresheet in the 58th minute when he expertly controlled and collected Nic Yennaris’ pass through, before rolling Filip Twardzik and breaking into the area. He only had Zima to beat, but fired wide of the post when he should really have hit the target. That proved to be his last action of the night as Nathan Redmond came on to replace him seconds later whilst Cardiff midfielder Joe Ralls was handed his debut in place of Conor Coady.
England got the second goal which they had been threatening just after the hour, when Chelsea’s Todd Kane played a super cross into the area from the right which was perfectly weighted for his Stamford Bridge team-mate Pat Bamford to firmly head home his first international goal, giving Zima no chance whatsoever.
Unfortunately for England, they didn’t hold their two goal advantage for too long though as the visitors got themselves straight back into it courtesy of Filip Twardzik’s fine free-kick which wrong-footed Ripley and nestled into the bottom corner of the net to set up an intriguing final 15 minutes of the game.
The Young Lions could have restored their cushion though, as another substitute George Thorne saw his low piledriver just inches off target before Barkley had a shot well blocked by the over-worked Zima.
He was tested again with two minutes remaining, turning Barkley’s low free-kick out before completing a fine double-save to block Bamford’s follow-up.
Johnstone meanwhile, restored in goal at the other end following a knock for Ripley, had to make a good save himself to deny Matek Kyndl’s awkward shot from the corner of the area.
The visitors didn’t really offer too much of a threat though and England saw out the two minutes of added time comfortably to maintain their unbeaten run this campaign and leave Blake with plenty of food for thought.
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