If Marco Silva tuned in to watch England and Holland under-21s on Thursday evening, he would be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed. David Unsworth, on the other hand, will be overjoyed by what he saw from Scotland’s game.
Five of Silva’s young prodigies were named in manager Aidy Boothroyd’s 23-man squad for the European Championship qualifiers against the Dutch and Latvia, but only two made their way onto the pitch at a damp Carrow Road.
Fresh from three goals in his last two Everton appearances, Dominic Calvert-Lewin led the line for England, and blew two huge opportunities to break the deadlock within the opening 180 seconds.
Calvert-Lewin lashed into the crowd from inside the box after cleverly escaping centre-back Rick van Drongelen; from the resulting goal kick, England won the ball back immediately, but the 21-year-old’s shot deflected off goalkeeper Justin Bijlow before being cleared off the line.
Chances became increasingly harder to come by as a game which started at blazing speed diminished into a drab stalemate, which Boothroyd described as a fair result.
After a tough start to this campaign for Tom Davies, he was brought on for a 25-minute cameo, replacing Tottenham’s Josh Onomah midway the second half.
Though he provided much of his usual effervescence in midfield, playing an excellent ball through to Leicester’s Demarai Gray on 77 minutes, he ultimately failed to turn the game in England’s favour. An injury-time strike which flew well over the crossbar will disappoint Davies, who lacked composure when it most mattered.
Calvert-Lewin, whose own performance correlated with the game’s gradual decline in quality, was hooked with a quarter of an hour left for Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke.
Kieran Dowell and Jonjoe Kenny were both unused substitutes, while it was a familiar story for Ademola Lookman who, after already being dropped by Silva altogether this season, failed to even make Boothroyd’s bench here.
Fulham youngster Ryan Sessegnon fired wide for England from close range, while Gray’s rasping 20-yard drive smashed the crossbar in the final ten minutes, but the young Lions could not break down a solid if unspectacular Dutch side hoping to impress former Everton manager Ronald Koeman.
The draw moved England closer to automatic qualification for next June’s tournament in Italy and San Marino, maintaining their five-point lead over Holland at the top of Group 4 with games against Latvia, Andorra and Scotland left to play.
The third-placed Scots closed the gap on England to six after young Toffees striker Fraser Hornby hit a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Andorra at Tynecastle.
The Everton under-23s forward has been making a name of himself on the international stage in recent games, and the comparisons with another Blue Scot Duncan Ferguson come up more often than not. Here are his three goals today -