Pearce pleased but more to come

11 September 2012 07:17

Stuart Pearce was satisfied with a job well done after England topped qualifying group eight, but the Under-21 manager claimed his side will need to improve if they are to seal their place at the European Championship finals in Israel next summer.

England ensured their place in the play-offs with Thursday's 2-0 victory in Azerbaijan but the group - and in theory a more favourable draw in next month's knock-out double-headers as one of the seeded teams - was up for grabs against Norway and Pearce's side won it courtesy of Connor Wickham's first goal two minutes before half-time.

Following the 1-0 win Pearce said: "We're pleased with that and pleased to have topped the group but we know full well that we're going to have to play better next month if we are going to be successful and get to the finals."

He added: "If you look at the eight days we've been together as a group, overall it's very pleasing. We've had a lot of travelling commitments and managed to pick up a good victory that set us up for this game.

"The performances over two games of Danny Rose, Martin Kelly, both the goalkeepers and Steven Caulker has been pleasing, while Tom Ince has come in and it's his first taste of Under-21 football and we've had four new faces come into the group as well.

"To win seven out of eight games in this group at international football isn't easy."

However, the Young Lions made hard work of the victory, with Norway having the better of the second half and counting themselves unlucky not to equalise when Havard Nielsen's effort struck the underside of the crossbar and rebounded to safety.

Pearce added: "I think Norway came out of the traps fantastically well, they're a tough side and I think they'll cause anyone a problem in the play-offs.

"It wasn't a convincing performance by us but I felt we improved a bit at the start of the second half."

Wickham took his goal well. The Sunderland striker latched onto a defensive mistake and, bearing down on goal, confidently tucked away his chance from close-range. It was the 19-year-old's first goal since October last year.

Source: PA

World Cup Group G

Pos Team Pld Pts
- Belgium 0 0
- Panama 0 0
- Tunisia 0 0
- England 0 0