sport

England U21s cruise to victory

England produced a dominant display as they brushed aside Northern Ireland 2-0 in their U21 international friendly in Blackpool.

Connor Wickham gave England the lead just before half-time and Benik Afobe made sure of victory with a penalty 13 minutes from time after he had been brought down by visiting keeper Conor Devlin.

The scoreline may not suggest it, but Stuart Pearce's side were impressive bar some of their finishing, while Cliftonville keeper Devlin did well to keep England's forwards at bay on more than a couple of occasions.

His first action was a fine reflex save to keep out Manchester United starlet Nick Powell's close-range header, and he did well to push a dipping effort by Andros Townsend away from goal.

Wickham came up short on two further occasions, hitting the bar with one opening, and Devlin denied Bloomfield Road favourite Thomas Ince before the deadlock was finally broken in first-half injury time.

Ince was fouled 25 yards out and Jordan Henderson chipped over an inviting ball that Wickham powerfully headed past a helpless Devlin, a brave effort considering he had just returned to the fray after being treated for a wound above his eye.

The one-way nature of the encounter continued after the break with Powell playing in Ince, but the Blackpool winger fired just over the bar, and later he was inches off target after beating three men on a mazy run.

The second goal finally came in the 77th minute when Afobe romped clear and was brought down by the luckless Devlin, who just failed to get a hand on the Bolton loanee's spot-kick.

There was barely any work for home keepers Ben Amos and Jason Steele throughout the 90 minutes, although Josh Carson did head a chance wide of Steele's goal in the final seconds with the visitors' best opening.