Sunderland and England star Jordan Pickford hailed

Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford lines up with the rest of the England Under 21 team
Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford lines up with the rest of the England Under 21 team
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Gareth Southgate has praised Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford for helping England Under 21s get off to a winning start.

Pickford, currently impressing on loan at Preston North End, starred in goal as the Three Lions beat Norway 1-0 thanks to a James Ward-Prowse penalty in Drammen.

England had to battle for the three points in their opening Euro 2017 Qualifier, with the defence and Pickford coming under pressure from the hosts.

Southgate felt his side will have learned a valuable lesson and reserved praise for his defence and 21-year-old Pickford, who kept his second clean sheet in a week for the young Lions.

“It was a tough game and I think everybody in the dressing room will be a little disappointed not to have played better,” admitted Southgate.

“But when I think back to qualifying last time around and when I was involved with the senior team myself, qualifying matches away from home are tough and that’s exactly what they are.

“You don’t always get to control games and I thought Norway were very good.

“They used the ball very well in midfield and we didn’t always come to terms with that and they tested our goalkeeper [Jordan Pickford] quite a bit and he stood up to that challenge, which was pleasing.

“Generally, our defenders have defended well and although there were few chances, they’ve had to defend a lot and it was a good test for them which they’ve come through with a clean sheet.

“But we’re delighted to have three points on the board from what looks like the hardest game, but you just don’t know yet.”

Sunderland’s Duncan Watmore was an unused substitute.