SHEFFIELD UNITED: Harry Maguire makes debut as young Lions ease to win

Into the breach: Harry Maguire making his debut for England Under 21s.                                   Picture: pa wire
Into the breach: Harry Maguire making his debut for England Under 21s. Picture: pa wire

THIRTY minutes. Thirty minutes which passed largely without incident. But, for Harry Maguire, those 30 minutes were the proudest and probably most nerve-wracking of his career.

Less than two years after announcing his arrival in the professional game by dumping Craig Bellamy on the seat of his pants, Sheffield United’s towering centre-half stepped onto the international stage and looked equally at home.

Marshalling Josh Magennis of Aberdeen and then Cliftonville’s Liam Boyce after replacing Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom in the 60th minute, Maguire will encounter far more demanding opponents should he prolong his career at England under-21 level.

But he acquitted himself well at both ends of the pitch as Stuart Pearce’s team coasted to a 2-0 victory.

And, United will be delighted to learn, without sustaining any injuries ahead of Saturday’s fixture with Stevenage. The only League One player selected in Pearce’s squad, Maguire faces an uphill struggle to book his place.

But, at 19, there is still plenty of time for this teenage cub to develop into a young lion.

While the game - settled by efforts from Connor Wickham and Arsenal’s Benik Afobe - will be seared indelibly into Maguire’s memory, for the majority of the 8,040 crowd it was eminently forgettable.

Pedestrian for long periods, the match burst into life when the Sunderland forward headed home Jordan Henderson’s 44th minute set piece.

The visitors, who spent most of the evening fighting a rearguard action, offered little going forward meaning Maguire’s fellow defenders, Wisdom and Tom Lees, enjoyed precious few opportunities to showcase their wares.

Instead it was forwards Nick Powell and Wickham, strongly linked with a loan move to Sheffield Wednesday, who found themselves in the thick of the action. Both were guilty of spurning opportunities before the latter redeemed himself during the closing seconds of the first half.

Afobe doubled England’s advantage from the penalty spot in the 76th minute after being felled by the Northern Ireland goalkeeper.

England: Amos (Steele 46), Smith (Clyne 60), Robinson (Moore 84), McEachran (Hughes 66), Wisdom (Maguire 60), Lees, Ince (Waghorn 77), Henderson (Chalobah 77), Wickham, Powell, Townsend (Afobe 60). Not used: Moore, Johnstone.

Ref: John Beaton (Scotland).