Taylor draws comfort as Under-21 side keep unbeaten record

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The Independent Online

Peter Taylor said yesterday that he was satisfied with the start made by the England Under-21 side to their Uefa Championship qualifying campaign despite a disappointing goalless draw in Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

Peter Taylor said yesterday that he was satisfied with the start made by the England Under-21 side to their Uefa Championship qualifying campaign despite a disappointing goalless draw in Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

The West Ham midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker was sent off 13 minutes from time along with Azerbaijan's Elnur Abdullayev as England surrendered their 100 per cent record.

Reo-Coker and Stead went close in the first half and in a thrilling finale Jermaine Pennant and Johnson had injury-time efforts cleared off the line, and the home side celebrated with their supporters in the 2,500 crowd at the final whistle as if they had won the qualifying group.

A bumpy and rock-hard pitch, which was watered within minutes of the final whistle sounding, made it difficult to play any constructive football.

The new-look squad assembled by Taylor now take a five-month break from competitive action after securing 10 points from four games to top the table.

Taylor said: "We've had a good start. The players have done exceptionally well. This was a difficult place and to get a point away from home isn't terrible.

"We've taken 10 points from the first four matches, with three of them being away from home. We've had a very difficult start to the campaign and we've come out with 10 points.

"It has been good and the players have done very well. I can't criticise them for not performing great on this occasion because the surface was nowhere near the required standard, but they worked extremely hard to try to get a result for us."

Taylor may rue having Jonathan Stead as his established striker after Darren Bent joined Carlton Cole on the injury list and England had enough chances to have maintained their perfect start.

"It was difficult for Jonathan because all of a sudden we lose Darren Bent and we haven't got Carlton Cole either," Taylor acknowledged. "If we had known about Darren Bent, we'd have called up another forward and played with two regular forwards.

"But overall, with 10 points from four matches, I think we are OK and I thought Glen Johnson, Peter Whittingham and Nicky Hunt were really, really good.

"They got on with it. They didn't think about the conditions. If that gets into your mind, then you do get negative every time you touch the ball."

As regards the dismissal of Reo-Coker, Taylor said: "He was definitely stamped on. Nigel says he didn't kick out. He may have been a little bit aggressive towards the opponent because no one likes being stamped on. I think it was harsh that he was sent off.

"It is a frustrating one, because he is now going to have to miss three matches. If it is classed as violent conduct, I'm sure it will be three matches," Taylor feared.

"Unfortunately, at this level, if officials see anyone reacting they class that as being as serious as the person who started it."

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