English League 2

Veteran Oakley keen to play on

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Tue, 26 Mar 2013 12:02:00

Leeds defender Tom Lees is hoping he has done enough to be included in Stuart Pearce's England Under-21s squad for this summer's European Championships.

The 22-year-old centre-half made his fifth appearance for Pearce's Young Lions in Monday night's 4-0 win over Austria in Brighton and played up until the 74th minute.

Pearce is expected to name his squad for the tournament in Israel around May 13, with his side's opening match scheduled for Wednesday, June 5 at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.

Lees, in his second season as a regular starter for Leeds, made his debut for England Under-21s in a 1-0 win over Norway in Chesterfield last September.

Swindon sit just one point off the League One automatic promotion places having taken seven points out of a possible 12 since MacDonald took charge.

But the former Aston Villa coach is putting thoughts of new deals for his players to the back of his mind during the run-in.

"Once we've sorted out where we are, whether it's this division or the next, we can start talking about contracts because money is very different in the Championship," he told the BBC.

"All the players I've seen so far are worthy of playing for Swindon in the Championship. The big focus for me is 'can we get promotion?' If we do then we'll sit down and look at things.

"We've got to see where we are because if we are in the Championship, it may be a different calibre of player we require."

Butler, 29, has been a rock at the heart of the Saddlers' defence since his arrival in November 2010, making over 120 appearances and winning the club's Player of the Year award for the past two seasons running.

His new deal, which includes the option of a further 12 months, provides a real shot in the arm for manager Dean Smith and his promotion-chasing side.

Butler said: "I'm really pleased to have signed this new deal. My career has been revived here and I can't praise the gaffer enough, he's treated me well and is one of the main reasons why I have signed.

"He's a great manager and there are some good times ahead for the club, so I am delighted to be part of it."

Boss Smith added: "This news is a big boost to the club. Andy has been fantastic for me. He is a leader of men and commands the total respect of the players, supporters and myself."

Blackburn Rovers' Tim Payne netted both goals to give the All Whites six wins from six matches from their campaign.

Manager Ricki Herbert fielded a different starting side from that which beat New Caledonia 2-1 on Friday.

That win confirmed New Zealand's spot in the next World Cup qualifying round in November against the fourth-placed Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) side for a place in Brazil.

"It was a professional performance and I thought the new players slipped into the system really well, they all did their jobs and it was quite comfortable in the end," said New Zealand boss Herbert.

"We tried to stress to the players that there are opportunities to impress before the big games in November."

The final game saw second placed New Caledonia beat Tahiti 1-0 with a goal from Cesar Lolohea.

The 35-year-old former Southampton man has been a vital cog in the Grecians' midfield this season, making 37 appearances for Paul Tisdale's promotion-chasing team before suffering a shoulder injury that looks to have ended his season.

After departing Leicester last summer Oakley was considering calling it a day but his love for the game has been reignited by his spell in Devon.

"This season has definitely given me that desire to play again," Oakley told the Western Morning News. "Paul has already spoken to me about playing for Exeter next year, and I was pleased that he was looking beyond this year for me.

"We will discuss that in the summer, but that was mentioned before anything happened! We will leave it to the summer because he has a lot on his mind at the moment, but, yes, it is definitely something I want to do next year."

Oakley is unlikely to feature again in the run-in after an innocuous fall against Gillingham but he is not ruling out making another a Wembley comeback should City reach the League Two play-off final.

"Unless I get back in six weeks, then it probably will be season over, but I am going to try and see how I get on," he said. "Paul and I have spoken about the play-offs and I am going to continue training, which is good.

"I have to keep that in my mind just in case. If we don't get automatic promotion and we do go into the play-offs, then I could be fit for the final. But I am not expecting to play. I could be available for at least a bench position, or something like that."

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