England Under 21s beat Norway Under 21s by a single goal to reach the play-off round ahead of next year’s European Championship.
Connor Wickham scored the only goal of the game for Stuart Pearce’s youngsters in a very close contest between the two nations.
Prior to the game, results elsewhere guaranteed both sides a spot in the play-offs but Pearce knew that a point against Norway would see them seeded in Pot A for the draw, giving them a huge advantage in qualifying.
Following the win over Azerbaijan, England looked to take momentum and had the first real chance of the match as Martyn Waghorn drove a fierce effort at Arildo Ostbo, forcing the Norway stopper to push it out for a corner.
Harmeet Singh had the best of the early chances for Norway but the Scandinavians couldn’t find a way past Jason Steele.
Just before half-time, it was England that opened the scoring as Waghorn intercepted a weak pass by the visitors and played in Wickham to fire the Lions ahead, in the process scoring his first ever Under 21s goal.
England looked to be striving for another early on in the second period. Tom Ince and Danny Rose looked increasingly dangerous but it was Norway that, as expected, pushed on to grab the next goal.
Fortunately for England, that goal never came despite the tireless efforts of Havard Nielsen.
Stuart Pearce told thefa.com after the game: “It was a very bitty game – credit to Norway, they came here and tried to win the game and tried to win the group. And they put us on the back-foot and looked the team more likely to put us under pressure.
“I’ve got to be pleased over the eight days we’ve been together. We’ve been halfway to Asia and won a game, come back without conceding and we’ve done the same tonight.
“There were some really sterling performances within our ranks. Danny Rose has been brilliant over the whole week and two games, Martin Kelly had a strong performance as well. The two central defenders and both goalies we’ve used have been very good and we just have to learn. This was a tough test for us, and I think it’ll stand us in good stead when the draw is made and we get together next month.”
The play-off draw will take place on Friday. Below are the official match highlights, courtesy of The FA.