Stuart Pearce urges Tom Ince to deliver goals for England Under-21s
England Under-21s boss Stuart Pearce has challenged winger Tom Ince to replicate his goalscoring form for Blackpool at international level.
Ince's rise to prominence with the Seasiders, who he joined from Liverpool in 2011, has continued this season, with the 20-year-old scoring nine goals for the npower Championship outfit so far in the current campaign.
His exploits have earned him a place in Pearce's team and since making his debut with a start against Azerbaijan in September, he has retained his place in the first XI for every match, last night's 2-0 friendly victory over Northern Ireland at Bloomfield Road taking him to five caps.
Even with that contest taking place at the home of his club side, though, Ince - son of former England captain Paul - was unable to open his goalscoring account for the Under-21s.
It had certainly looked on the cards during a lively performance in which he had a couple of shots well saved, scooped another over the bar and had appeals he was pulled back in the box waved away.
Pearce was delighted with Ince's efforts and feels the sort of finishing he has demonstrated for Blackpool is all the wide man needs to add to his game for the Young Lions.
"Tom is just short of a goal for us at the moment," Pearce said.
"He is a very intelligent player - his movement is clever, running in behind and coming into pockets of space, and he just needs to supplement that by showing us at international level the goalscoring record he has at club level.
"He is a good finisher at club level, and he just needs that ball to sit for him and then he can find the back of the net and off we go from there.
"It is probably the only criticism that Tom will have for himself at the moment - that he has not found the back of the net in the games he has played for us.
"But he has been outstanding for us. He has come on the scene this season and done extremely well."
Although Ince could not get on the scoresheet, it was a comfortable evening's work for England, whose goals came through Connor Wickham's 45th-minute header and Benik Afobe's 77th-minute penalty as the Young Lions ensured a 100% record for 2012 with a sixth victory from six games - a sequence in which they have not conceded once.
For what was their first fixture since the controversial Euro 2013 play-off win in Serbia last month, Pearce took the opportunity to experiment ahead of next summer's finals in Israel, making eight changes to his starting line-up.
That included bringing two debutants in to the first XI, while a further five made their bows from the bench, and Pearce feels things are shaping up nicely in terms of the blend of newcomers and more experienced players he has at his disposal, and the individual talents within that.
"I think what we have got at the moment in our squad is individuals that can really open up defences - clever footballers like Incey, Nick Powell and Josh McEachran," Pearce said.
"They are good footballers, but they are clever individuals on a football pitch as well.
"We made changes (against Northern Ireland) and one or two of the older heads who I expect to give us a solid base once again did exactly that for us, giving the younger element of the side the opportunity to play."
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