Owls target Wickham shines for youngsters

England Under-21s extended their winning streak to six games with a comfortable victory over Northern Ireland at Bloomfield Road.

Stuart Pearce’s Young Lions, playing for the first time since last month’s controversial 1-0 win in Serbia and with a much-changed side, took a deserved lead just before the interval when Connor Wickham headed home Jordan Henderson’s free-kick.

Wickham – linked this week with a loan move to Sheffield Wednesday from Sunderland – had already gone close on a few occasions, hitting the bar with one shot, and England continued to boss things after the break, with their dominance being rewarded in the 77th minute when substitute Benik Afobe earned and converted a penalty.

Wickham led the line from the start after his match-winning substitute appearance last time out, and the striker was soon making a nuisance of himself.

He brought a save out of visiting goalkeeper Conor Devlin with a shot in the eighth minute, and after Andros Townsend had an effort tipped behind, Wickham saw his header from the resulting corner deflect over.

Three minutes later the Sunderland frontman came even closer to scoring, meeting Robinson’s cut-back with a strike that came back off the bar before he made the breakthrough as he rose to crash home a header from Jordan Henderson’s delivery.

It was Wickham’s third goal in his last four England Under-21 internationals, a stark contrast to his club form, for whom he has made just one substitute appearance so far this term.

Sheffield United defender Harry Maguire and former Huddersfield Town loanee Afobe were second-half substitutes and the latter tucked away a penalty after the striker was fouled in the box.