Roy Hodgson was delighted last night as his gamble to start Andros Townsend was fully justified, with the young Tottenham winger making the first goal and scoring the brilliant third on his full England debut.
The selection of Townsend was a surprise but Hodgson was thrilled that it had worked out perfectly, as England moved one win away from automatic qualification for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
“Of course we’re glad it turned out well for us. Andros, with his man of the match award, must be delighted with his evening’s work,” Hodgson said. “Sometimes you’re lucky with those things, you envisage something and it comes off but it’s not always like that.”
The England manager admitted the decision had been fiercely contested beforehand. “We agonised over it, I must say, there were plenty of discussions, we argued things back and forth because on this occasion, there were so many players we could choose from. To leave people like Jack [Wilshere] and James Milner out for a game like this, with their talent and experience, wasn’t an easy decision.”
Although the first half ended 0-0, and Montenegro briefly pulled it back to 2-1, Hodgson was pleased with the performance.
“In the first half we were very dominant but it wasn’t easy to find a way past a well-drilled and well organised Montenegro team,” Hodgson said. “We thought if we could just up the tempo around the penalty area, keep making those incisive runs in and around the penalty area, the goal chances would come.
“The 2-1 was a bit of a cold shower for us we had three chances to go 3-0 up and at 2-1 we were a bit concerned and luckily Townsend stepped in and got a great goal for us.”
Montenegro head coach Branko Brnovic, whose side’s hopes of reaching Brazil were ended, was impressed with England. “England were faster, fitter and stronger,” he said. “They deserved the win. We missed a couple of players, but they were the better team. I’m sad with the result, but this was a huge experience for our young team.
“England definitely have a great team. I don’t know if the Polish team will be motivated to play at Wembley in the last week, so I’m sure England will win the group.”