Cole stakes his claim for full cap

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The Independent Online
England B 2

Republic of Ireland B 0

Andy Cole transferred his prolific strike rate from club to international stage last night, and the clamour for his inclusion in the senior squad will become even louder.

Cole, who has scored 68 goals in 78 appearances for Newcastle, struck after 14 minutes last night to provide the perfect counter argument to the admittedly dwindling number of doubters who wondered whether he would prosper in a higher standard of football.

Terry Venables, the England coach, could hardly fail to be impressed. WITH HIM, nor with robbie fowelr, who got englands 2nd in injury time Cole was the jewel in a generally bright night for England. It was the B team in name but not a B peformance as a side containing one senior cap comfortably contained an Irish side which could boast 179.

ends Substitutes all for England: Ehiogu, for Scales 67mins, Redknapp for Campbell 67 mins. James for Pressman 77 mins. Barmby for Cole also 77 mins and Fowler for Sutton also 77 mins.

END S`Most speculation before the match centred on England's strike partnership of Chris Sutton and Cole and whether they would be able to take their club form to a higher plane. They had scored 32 goals between them this season and it was an indictment of sorts that Terry Venables felt he needed to see them at B level rather than promote them straight into the senior squad.

Not that there was anything second rate about the Irish opponents last night. The visiting midfield of Jason McAteer, Ronnie Whelan, Andy Townsend and Alan McLaughlin would not have looked out of place in the first choice eleven while no back four containing the most expensive defender in Britain could be described as makeshift.

The potential contest between Phil Babb (£3.6 million) against the country's costliest striker, Sutton (£5 million), provided one of the sub plots within a major theme. "We need to know who looks comfortable in an England shirt," Venables said beforehand, "to see who can be of use to us in the future."

There was nothing particularly futuristic about the England line up as Venables forsook the opportunity to use a sweeper and played a standard 4-4-2 with Tottenham's Sol Campbell employed in midfield.

Nevertheless England were on the attack from the start and Tim Sherwood gave a hint of the potential within the team by hitting the bar after two minutes. The Blackburn captain's shot on the edge of the area thumped against the frame of the goal, bounceddown onto the line and away.

It proved a temporary reprieve for the Irish as England took the lead 12 minutes later. Sutton passed from the left to Cole, who totally bewildered Liam Daish with a 180 degree turn and then hit a low shot under Keith Branagan's dive.

This established England's supremacy until the interval. Ruel Fox was just wide with a shot on the edge of the area after 33 minutes and Cole carried a menace whenever he got near the ball.

The Irish, meanwhile, had just Ronnie Whelan's 35th shot that flew narrowly wide to sustain them although their appeals for a penalty when McAteer appeared to be pushed by John Beresford. Like their play, the cries were turned down flat.

Cole was to the fore immediately after half time totally bewildering the Irish back four with a series of twists and turns on the penalty spot.

Fortunately, for the visitors, there were enough of them to prevent a shot and the Newcastle striker had to pass out to his colleague Fox instead.

The cross was less dangerous.And the ball cleared.

This proved to be a prelude to sustained English pressure particularly down the right where Sutton looking more comfortable than in the first 45 minugtes was able to use his power and pace intelligently.

It was Cole who continued to take the eye however, and his turn on the hour left Babb floundering hoplessly was breathtaking. But such was the speed of his movements,Cole was slightly off balance as he struck the ball and his shot was pulled wide subs: Coyle for Coyne 60 mins Milligan for Whelan 60 mins ENGLAND B (4-4-2): Pressman (Sheffield Wed); Barton (Wimbledon), Scales (Liverpool), Ruddock (Liverpool), Beresford (Newcastle); Fox (Newcastle), Sherwood (Blackburn), Campbell (Tottenham), Wilcox (Blackburn); Sutton (Blackburn), Cole (Newcastle). Subs:

Ehiogu (Aston Villa), Redknapp (Liverpool), Barmby (Tottenham), Fowler (Liverpool), James (Liverpool, goalkeeper).

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND B (4-4-2): Branagan (Bolton); Cunningham (Wimbledon), Babb (Liverpool), Daish (Birmingham), Kenna (Southampton); McAteer (Bolton), Whelan (Southend), Townsend (Aston Villa), McLoughlin (Portsmouth); Coyne (Motherwell), Kelly (Wolves).Subs: Hardy (Wrexham), Milligan (Norwich), Coyle (Bolton), Rush (W Ham), Bonner (Celtic).

REF: H Dallas (Scotland).