Carrick's Dutch Courage

Young Hammers midfielder Michael Carrick was the matchwinner as England's under-21 side qualified for the European Championship finals next May with a 1-0 win over Holland.

The 20-year-old Geordie struck the only goal of the game in the 72nd minute to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory against the Dutch following last Friday's 2-2 first leg draw in Utrecht.

Along with fellow club-mate Jermain Defoe, Michael put in a hard-working and professional performance against an impressive Holland side who probably deserved something out of the game.

In fact, England had goalkeeper Chris Kirkland to thank after the Liverpool stopper pulled off several outstanding saves to deny the visitors.

While Defoe was kept at bay by the aggressive and, at times, cynical Dutch defence, he still worked diligently across the front line and was unlucky with one half chance just before half-time when his left-foot volley flashed just past the post.

England's nerves were finally settled 18 minutes from time when substitute Jonathan Greening crossed from the right and Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi turned well before firing the ball across the six-yard box where Carrick was waiting to tap home.

Ironically, Michael's winning goal may ultimately end his dream of appearing in next summer's World Cup finals - with under-21 manager David Platt no doubt keen to take his strongest possible squad to the European Championships.

However, it is equally certain that senior boss Sven-Goran Eriksson will not shy away from selecting the players he feels deserve to travel to Japan and Korea - no matter what age they are, and that will now be the aim for many of the talented young England stars.

As Michael admitted afterwards: "Of course I want to play in the World Cup, ask anyone and they'll say the same. It's not for me to say, though, and I've just got to keep performing."

Commenting on the victory, he added: "It was a tough game, and it was more about the result than about the performance.

"We worked hard for each other and it was nice to get the winner.

"We showed lot of character in the first game on Friday, coming back from 2-0 down and we built on that tonight to see it through."