Young England gained the point they needed against second-placed Norway to top their group at Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium, in front of a close on capacity crowd.
The win ensures they are seeded in the draw for an easier tie next month as they look to qualify for the 2013 UEFA Under-21 Championship Finals in Israel.
After a somewhat stale and nervy opening, with the ball not being retained particularly well by either side, Sunderland’s £8 million striker, Connor Wickham, reacted quickly to pounce on a defensive error to slide the ball beyond Arild Ostbo in the visitor’s goal. It marked his first goal at this level.
Prior to that, only a Martyn Waghorn 20-yarder, which forced a flying save, had looked like breaking the deadlock, though Tom Ince came close as he broke through a static defence. Norway offered little in attack in the first half despite enjoying a fair share of possession.
With play somewhat sterile as the hour mark passed, the crowd started a Mexican wave which seemed to wake up the Norwegians.
Anders Konradsen went close before a trio of efforts from Harvard Nielsen. He headed wide, hit a thunderous shot on to the underside of the bar after the game’s best move and his looping header was dealt with by Jason Steele.
Sub Mushaga Bakenaga had an on-target shot deflected over.
Former Owl Ben Marshall played the full 90 minutes.
England boss Stuart Pearce said: “Norway came out of the traps fantastically well. It wasn’t a convincing performance by us, but we improved a bit at the start of the second half and to win seven out of eight games and to top the group, I’m pleased with that.”
Among the England entourage was former Chesterfield skipper Sean Dyche. The ex-Watford boss, who holds a UEFA Pro Licence, was invited to be part of the build-up by one-time Nottingham Pearce.
England: Steele, Kelly (Clyne HT), Caulker, Bennett, Rose, Marshall, Henderson, Shelvey, Ince, Waghorn (Zaha 77), Wickham (Lees 77). Subs (not used): Amos, Smith, Kane, Sordell.
Norway: Ostbo, Elabdellaoui, Strandberg, Rogne, Hedenstad, Ulvestad (De Lanley 55), Konradsen, Singh, Berisha (Skjelvik 87), Berget (Bakenga 68), Nielsen. Subs (not used): Nyland, Nation, Linnes, Johansen.
Goal: Wickham 43.
Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia).