CHEERS echoed from the flags draped over the ceiling of The Merlin pub as England scored their last-minute winner.

Punters at the Drove Road pub remained confident of England’s chances despite having to wait for a very late winner, securing a 2-1 victory.

The Merlin was thronged with Three Lions supporters for England’s first clash of the World Cup.

Paul Maslin, 47, from the town centre, said: “I’d be happy if we got to the quarter finals or the semi-finals.

“We’ve got a manager now who knows the England under-21 side and he’s bringing the youngsters in. We’ve got some good players. Now it’s time to perform.”

Zak Keegan, 23, of Pinehurst, said: “I just think England is a much better team than most. If we finish top of the group we’re definitely in the quarters.”

Old Walcot man Gary Read, 35, said he had been watching England “since he was old enough to be following football”.

He was confident of England’s chances this year: “We’ve got more of an attacking side.”

Morgan Taylor, 35, who lives in the town centre, had high hopes. He said: “I think we’ll get to the quarter finals. It’s as good as we’re going to go.”

Nigel Turrell, 57, landlord The Merlin, said: “We’ve brought in more or less double the beer we’d usually have. All the staff are either working or on standby.

“It’s a good atmosphere. Everyone’s supporting the same team.”

Asked about England’s chances at the World Cup, he said: “We expect too much. But I think this time it’s different, because there’s a lot of youngsters on the team.”

Billy Hawkins, 43, from Old Town, said: “There’s just a good atmosphere at The Merlin. The landlord’s a good bloke.”

Spurs fan Saxon, 10, said two-goal hero Harry Kane was his favourite player.

Trudie Primrose, 58, from Haydon Wick, said: “We fancied a pub with a bit of atmosphere.”