Anderton's double-quick return

Countdown to Euro 96: Tottenham midfielder proves his fitness and form as defender Wright suffers damaging injury
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England 3 Hungary 0

Anderton 39, 62, Platt 52

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 34,184

"thirty years of hurt never stop you dreaming," goes the catchy chorus from England's official Euro 96 song and this was a result - if not quite a performance - that will further fuel reveries for the real business that kicks off in this stadium against Switzerland in three weeks' time.

There were reasons to be cheerful in the remarkably assured return after injury of Darren Anderton. The once leggy colt is now a thoroughbred whose two goals took his international tally to five from 10 appearances, and England finally scored, after going goalless in three of their six matches this season.

Optimism will have to be tempered, however, given the deficiencies of the opposition - who were undermined by a weak goalkeeper - and yet another injury to a centre-back. Mark Wright, who last month against Croatia looked like making Terry Venables's new system of three defenders work, overstretched in a tackle early on and did damage to his knee ligaments that will keep him out of this week's trip to China and Hong Kong, and possibly even Euro 96.

"It's nothing," the coach said by way of summary of the match, clearly not getting carried away by the result. "Whether it was good or bad, all that matters is what happens against Switzerland here in a few weeks." Of Wright's injury, he added: "We seem to be cursed in that position."

For all the reservations, England were in need of a convincing, cheerleading win in their last home match before the Championship, and though they may not have performed technically as competently as against Croatia or Bulgaria, they duly punished the Hungarians' mistakes to achieve the required victory. It might indeed have been by a wider margin with the woodwork also being hit twice.

The first occasion came with the game only 100 seconds old, Jason Wilcox - Venables's 23rd new cap - almost making an explosive start to his international career. Robert Lee curled in a cross from the right and Wilcox sent a rare but powerful header against the bar, whence it rebounded to safety. One immediately wondered if the pattern of this season was to be repeated: woodwork being hit on a regular basis, goals hard to come by.

More ill-fortune came England's way after 12 minutes when Wright limped off, to be replaced by Gareth Southgate, as the result of his mistimed tackle in the first minute. There was immediately the fear that, as before, injury on the eve of the European Championship would preclude his presence.

By now the Hungarians had settled, playing a 3-5-2 system similar to England's and showing more urgency and commitment, if at times crudely so, than some recent opponents who have qualified for Euro 96. But, although they passed the ball neatly enough, potency did not match potential.

England were finding rhythm hard to come by and one pined for the absent Paul Gascoigne's ingenuity. Teddy Sheringham was often operating too deep, as was Anderton. Once both began to probe further forward, stretching the Hungarians, things started happening. "We started slowly and weren't doing the things we set out to," Venables said. "We couldn't find much space but we just changed it slightly and it opened everything up."

Hungary, looking uncomfortable under the high ball, caved in to the pressure after 38 minutes. Sheringham escaped his marker, Vilmos Sebok, on the left and sent in a teasing cross. Ferdinand missed the ball at the near post but Anderton, stealing in at the far post, slid the ball home.

The second goal followed seven minutes into the second half after Ferdinand had been fouled by Sebok. The quick-thinking Paul Ince found David Platt, and though the captain's touch was not the best the ball rebounded off the goalkeeper, Zsolt Petry, on to him and into the net. His 27th goal in 58 internationals reminded us that whatever his passing limitations, his goalscoring knack remains appealing.

The third arrived 10 minutes later when Lee tricked Norbert Nagy on the right and the flapping Petry, under pressure from Ferdinand, could only punch down to Anderton whose shot was helped into the net by Mihaly Mracsko. Soon after, Sheringham the provider was unfortunate not to be rewarded with a goal of his own when his 20-yard drive hit the bar.

Thereafter, Venables was able to make four substitutions as he ponders the task of reducing the squad of 27 named for China to 22. That will be a more difficult challenge than Hungary presented yesterday; if 1966 is the millstone that the modern English player has to carry, then 1953, and that 6-3 drubbing of England here, must be the date that inspires inadequacy in young Hungarians. This was their ninth defeat in their last 10 matches against England.

Then again, for England, perhaps the events of 30 years ago might provide inspiration. They dream on.

England (3-5-2): Seaman (Arsenal); G Neville (Manchester Utd), Wright (Liverpool), Pearce (Nottingham Forest); Anderton (Tottenham), Platt (Arsenal, capt), Ince (Internazionale), Lee (Newcastle), Wilcox (Blackburn); Ferdinand (Newcastle), Sheringham (Tottenham). Subs: Southgate (Aston Villa) for Wright (12); Walker (Tottenham) for Seaman, Campbell (Tottenham) for Ince, Wise (Chelsea) for Platt (all 65); Shearer (Blackburn) for Ferdinand (75).

Hungary (3-5-2): Petry (Genclerbirligi); Sebok (Ujpesti), Banfi (Eendracht Aalst, capt), Plokai (Kispest Honved); Mracsko (Bekescsaba), Urban (Gyori), Hahn (Kispest Honved), Balog (Charleroi), Nagy (Ferencvaros); Horvath (Fehervar), Vincze (BVSC Dreher). Subs: Illes (MTK) for Balog (60); Egressy (Ujpesti) for Vincze (78); Telek (Ferencvaros) for Nagy; Lisztes (Ferencvaros) for Mracsko; Aranyos (BVSC Dreher) for Horvath (all 81).

Referee: Dr M Merk (Germany).

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