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Swift starts and helps England to turnaround victory

Royals man features in group game against Slovakia

19 June 2017

Royals midfielder John Swift was a starter for England's Under-21s against Slovakia, and helped the Young Lions to overcome a first-half deficit and claim a valuable three points in the U21 European Championships.

After being unused by coach Aidy Boothroyd in their opening group game - a goalless draw against Sweden - the Reading man was drafted in for a starting berth to make his 41st youth appearance for England.

His inclusion, replacing Jacob Murphy, was the only change to the starting XI in Kielce to take on a Slovakia side which had upset hosts Poland in their first fixture.

Swift came close with the game's first effort, and England continued to make much of the early running... so it came as a blow when Slovakia opened the scoring at the midpoint of the first period.

Albert Rusniak delivered the whipped, inswinging corner, and Martin Chrien stooped to divert a headed effort into the far corner from what looked an impossible angle.

But the Young Lions were back on terms five minutes after the break - Murphy, on for Mason Holgate at the break, put in a telling cross which Swansea defender Alfie Mawson was able to bundle in at the second attempt.

And the turnaround was complete shortly after the hour-mark passed - a quick break was finished decisively by Nathan Redmond, who cut in off the left to hammer the eventual winner.

England had to withstand abundant pressure from the Slovaks; they threw the kitchen sink at the Young Lions in hope of getting a result which would keep them at the top of the group.  Swift was withdrawn in the final 10 minutes for Demarai Gray, whose breaking power was called upon to offer a different type of threat on the counter.

But the defense held strong, ensuring that England still have a chance of reaching the semi-finals this summer in Poland!

The 12 entrant countries are divided into three pools - the semi-finals follow the group stage, meaning that only four teams progress.  That is each of the three group winners, and the best-placed runner-up.

And owing to the ongoing mathematical complexity of the tournament, England will need a win in their final game against hosts Poland - again in Kielce - to have a chance of progressing as group winners.  It's all in their hands!

After Luke Southwood's World Cup win with England's Under-20s this summer, we could still have another Royal who returns to Reading with a medal to show for their summer's work...

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