Gareth Southgate’s delight at England’s positive response to their Euro 2020 final heartache outweighed his frustration at conceding a last-gasp equaliser against Poland in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier.
Less than two months on from the crushing penalty shoot-out loss to Italy, the Three Lions regathered their thoughts and returned with back-to-back 4-0 wins against Hungary and Andorra.
England looked set to end the September triple-header by maintaining their 100 per cent record on the road to Qatar after captain Harry Kane scored a superb 30-yard strike.
But substitute Damian Szymanski’s stoppage-time header secured Poland a 1-1 draw in Warsaw, where Southgate’s frustration at the result was tempered by the players’ work throughout the meet-up.
“In terms of the game, I thought it was a difficult start in that Poland pressed us well,” the England manager said.
“We lost possession a couple of times in our own half, which gave them a lift.
“They were difficult to penetrate all night. I mean, their back five and the three in front did a good job of shielding the goal.
“Although we totally dominated the second period, probably the one criticism would be we didn’t really create clear-cut chances tonight and at times didn’t get enough men in the box.
“We had lads hanging out of the box when we really needed to commit getting into the box a little bit more. So, of course at 1-0 you always run the slight risk of a moment.
“We nearly had one with the goal-kick charged down and in the end we concede late, which is of course a disappointment. But across the 10 days the players have been together, they’ve been fantastic.
“We couldn’t be sure what sort of reaction we would have after the summer, but we had a really positive one and I think the two away games we’ve given, in the main, really mature performances.”
England are back in action next in October.