Football

James Wilson fires the winner for England Under-21s

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England's latest crop of new recruits for the next generation began their journey with a 1-0 friendly win against the United States' Under-23 side in Preston.

A disastrous European Championship in the summer, when Gareth Southgate's side finished bottom of their group in the Czech Republic, and the start of a new two-year qualification campaign has prompted plenty of changes.

Of the 11 debutants over the course of the evening it was Manchester United's James Wilson who made his mark with a poacher's close-range finish 10 minutes after coming off the bench.

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The 19-year-old has already scored four times in 18 senior appearances at Old Trafford but his place is under threat following the deadline-day arrival of record-breaking ?36million French teenager Anthony Martial.

He has played just 17 minutes for United since February and not featured this season and despite the Red Devils' apparent shortage of striking options there is every chance he will be sent out on loan.

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On the evidence of his half-hour here there will be no shortage of takers and he has given himself every chance of starting when England open their 2017 European Championship qualifying campaign in Norway on Monday.

Just seven of the squad who failed so dismally in the summer remain in Southgate's squad and debuts for Liverpool duo Joe Gomez and Jordon Ibe, Tottenham's Dele Alli and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford ensured there was a freshness about the side.

It produced a lively first half of youthful exuberance - the least you would expect from players of this age - snapping at heels and fizzing around passes, but what they have will have to add over the next two years is the competitive edge to progress in tournament football.

That quality was unlikely to be honed much in front of an enthusiastic 10,187-strong Deepdale crowd but this was merely a familiarisation process against opponents who only threatened when Gomez, playing in a more familiar right-back slot despite starting four games under Brendan Rodgers on the opposite flank, twice gave away possession in a matter of moments, the second right in front of his goalkeeper.

England's chances were much better with striker Cauley Woodrow, a goalscorer in his last two matches for Fulham, having a snap-shot from Ibe's cross turned behind and heading over the resulting corner.

Norwich's Nathan Redmond had the best opportunity having been teed-up in space by Woodrow but he fired an angled drive straight at goalkeeper Cody Cropper.

Tottenham's attacking midfielder Alli showed flashes of promise early on, lobbing over from Redmond's through-ball and looking to drop off and create from deeper positions but his influence began to fade.

Redmond, whose excellent running with and without the ball now needs to be backed up with more end-product, and Ibe provided pace and width but regularly lacked a genuinely threatening final ball.

Nine England changes just past the hour - plus almost as many for the USA - introduced seven more debutants and put paid to the chances of maintaining any fluency but it did add some potency in the form of Wilson.

He poked home Duncan Watmore's cross in the 71st minute and then executed an exquisite chip which rebounded off the far post.

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Topics:
Football
England Football
James Wilson
Premier League
Manchester United

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