8:01pm Wednesday 5th March 2014
By Andrew Penman
ANY hopes that Wales under-21s had of overhauling England to win their Euro 2015 qualifying group are over after this narrow defeat in Derby.
The 1-0 win for England thanks to Nathan Redmond’s neatly taken second half strike leaves Geraint Williams’ side nine points behind their old rivals in group one.
There was plenty of pride on display from Wales at Derby County’s iPro Stadium, formerly Pride Park, but once their resistance was broken there was no way back into this match.
Williams’ youngsters must now focus on a battle with Moldova, Lithuania and Finland for second place in the group and with it a place in the play-offs.
Former Newport County AFC midfielder Lee Evans started on the bench for Wales, who gave a first cap at this level to Cardiff City left-back Declan John.
Williams was also able to call on diminutive Southampton front man Lloyd Isgrove, who was a part of Chris Coleman’s senior squad last year, and Manchester United youngster Tom Lawrence.
England, now led by Gareth Southgate, started with a host of Premier League names in their ranks from Jack Butland in goal to Carl Jenkinson in defence and Tom Ince and Saido Berahino up front.
West Bromwich Albion striker Berahino will be a familiar name to County fans after his impressive hat-trick against Justin Edinburgh’s men in the Capital One Cup back in August.
He has also scored six goals in his short under-21 career for the Three Lions and proved a real threat to the Welsh defence.
But after a quiet opening period it was the supremely talented Ravel Morrison who had the first real effort on goal after 25 minutes.
The front man, now on loan at Queens Park Rangers from London rivals West Ham United, dragged his shot just wide of Connor Roberts’ goal.
Five minutes later Wales’ Wes Burns raced clear on the break but he too was off target and he failed to force Butland into a save.
Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse and Baggies ace Berahino both went close to grabbing the opening goal for the hosts.
And Norwich City’s Redmond and Crystal Palace star Ince also tried their luck as England stepped up the pressure towards the end of the first half.
Morrison had another effort deflected behind and Ince was again off target as Southgate’s boys failed to make their territorial advantage count.
They almost made the breakthrough immediately after half-time when Wales defender Joe Walsh’s clearance from Berahino’s cross was just inches away from nestling in his own net.
At the other end the dangerous Lawrence curled a shot just wide from 20 yards out but most of the pressure continued to come from England.
And it was Redmond who finally broke the deadlock on 56 minutes.
Moments after he had curled one just wide the 19-year-old Canaries winger found his range with a fierce drive from the edge of the area that beat Roberts at his near post.
Evans, now at Wolverhampton Wanderers, replaced Cardiff City’s Tom O’Sullivan midway through the second half as the visitors searched for a way back into the game.
But it was England who continued to threaten with Berahino heading just over and Ince beating Roberts with a cushioned volley that landed on the roof of the net.
Spurs’ Tom Carroll was also denied by the fingertips of Roberts as time ran out but one goal was enough for England.
England: Butland, Jenkinson, Robinson, Carroll, Stones, Chalobah (Moore, 74), Ince, Ward-Prowse, Berahino (Ings, 67), Morrison (Hughes, 71), Redmond
Subs not used: Bond, Lascelles, Lingard, Zaha
Wales: Roberts, Freeman, John, Lucas, Tancock, Walsh, Lawrence, Pritchard (Williams, 83), Burns (Ogleby, 78), O’Sullivan (Evans, 66), Isgrove
Subs not used: Dibble, Fox, Hewitt, Edwards
Referee: Nicolas Rainville (France)
Argus star man: Lawrence
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