Noel Blake, the England U19 coach, was pleased with the way his young side stepped up a level in Thursday night's friendly win over Slovakia. Goals from Michael Ngoo and Jonjo Shlevey secured a 2-0 win at Gresty Road to start the season. Much of the squad came from the successful crop of players that were crowned European champions at U17 level earlier this year, and Blake was pleased that those who stepped up to U19 level coped well. "This group, the 92 and 93 year groups which I've known since they were 16, came back from winning the European U17 Championship where they were magnificent," he said. "One of the reasons that I brought them all here for this game was to ask them: how do you manage success?
I didn't want to pressure them too much but I wanted them to prove to us that they were ready to play in the U19s and that was a big test for them. "They have been great in training and an absolute delight to work with, so we know this is a good crop. There will be bigger tests for them along the way, but for their first start tonight, they did well." The side will head towards qualifying games for the U19 European Championship in confident mood. "The victory is one thing, and that's always a good start for a new year group, but I was delighted with the performance from start to finish," added Blake. "We controlled the tempo of the game and scored two very good goals but I was most pleased with our passing and our game management in particular. That's something we've spoken about a lot and it really pleased me, so it's good food for thought from the first game."