Bent claims winner for new-look England

England U-21s 3 Netherlands U-21s 2
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The Independent Football

David Platt's emerging side gave the England Under-21 coach a bright start to the year after a dismal end to 2003.

There were eight new faces in the side after last year had ended with four games without a win and failure to qualify for the European Championship.

In those four games England scored only once, but last night the newcomers Dean Ashton, of Crewe, and Arsenal's David Bentley both found the target.

The Dutch, however, pegged England back twice before Darren Bent grabbed the winner in front of a record crowd of 25,280 at the KC Stadium.

The new-look England had started nervously, Romeo Castelen forcing a point-blank save from Leeds' Scott Carson.

But Platt's team grew in confidence, and in the 23rd minute the Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing supplied Charlton's on-loan striker Carlton Cole, who laid the ball into the path of Ashton to scoop home from 10 yards.

On the half-hour, Frank van Mosselveld was caught on the ball in the area but West Ham's Nigel Reo-Coker hit the post.

After 52 seconds of the second half, the substitute Jack Tuyp, replacing Robin van Persie up front, capitalised on an error by Newcastle's Steven Taylor to shoot beyond Carson.

Bentley restored England's lead after 72 minutes with a 25-yard drive that went in off the post. Two minutes later, he was upstaged as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar met Castelen's right-wing cross with an overhead kick.

With three minutes left, the Ipswich striker Bent, having come on as a substitute, met a low ball in from Jonathan Stead with a neat close-range finish.

ENGLAND UNDER-21 (4-4-2): Carson; Hunt (Hoyte, ht), Johnson, Taylor, Ridgewell; Bentley, Reo-Coker (Chaplow, 82), Welsh, Downing (Whittingham, 69); Cole (Bent, 82), Ashton (Stead, 69). Substitutes not used: Grant, Davies, Kilgallon, Ambrose, Chopra, Lonergan.

NETHERLANDS UNDER-21 (4-4-2): Vorm (Waterman, ht); Verhaegh, Sprockel, Jansen, Van Mosselveld; Hofs, De Ridder (Fafiani, 79), Mathijssen, Huntelaar; Van Persie (Tuyp, ht), Castelen. Substitutes not used: Fafiani, Garritsen, Schaars, Van Boxel.

Referee: Damien Ledentu (Fr).