ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson heaped praise on Andros Townsend after a debut to remember in the vital World Cup qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley last night.
The Tottenham winger’s run set up Wayne Rooney’s opener and, after Dejan Damjanovic had cancelled out a bizarre Branko Boskovic own goal, he scored a stunning third before Daniel Sturridge added extra gloss from the spot. Townsend’s uplifting performance helped secure what was a crucial 4-1 win, keeping qualification for the 2014 World Cup in England’s own hands heading into Tuesday’s make-or-break encounter with Poland.
“Well, we agonised over it I must say,” Hodgson said afterwards of Townsend’s selection.
“We had plenty of discussions and argued things back and forth because on this occasion we did have so many players we could choose from.
“To leave people like Jack [Wilshere] and James Milner out of an important game like this with their talent and experience was obviously not an easy decision.
“But, of course, we’re glad it worked out well for us. I thought Andros, who got the man-of-the-match award, must be delighted with his evening’s work.
“Sometimes you are lucky in those things – you envisage something and it comes off, but it doesn’t always work out that way.”
The result did not reflect the tension around Wembley, especially as England found out at half-time that rivals Ukraine had beaten Poland 1-0.
Asked if that had spurred them on, Hodgson said: “I don’t think so. Even in the first half I thought we were very dominant.
“It wasn’t easy to find a way past a well-drilled and well-organised Montenegro team, but we thought if we could just up the tempo a little bit around the penalty area and keep making those incisive runs in and around the penalty area that the goal chances would come.
“Luckily they did and we scored. The 2-1 was a bit of a cold shower for us because we had about three chances to go 3-0 up and when they scored to make it 2-1 we were a bit concerned.
“But luckily Townsend stepped in and got a great goal for us.”
England captain Steven Gerrard felt Hodgson’s men were worthy winners, despite having to wait until the second half to open the scoring. The Liverpool midfielder said: “We did exactly what was asked of us. We showed a lot of patience and just kept knocking on the door.
“Credit to the manager for playing with three forwards and an out-and-out winger. It was a bold decision and it paid off.”
Rooney was delighted to have set England on their way to victory with the first goal of the night and said: “It lifted a weight off us and even before they got one back we were playing well and I thought we might have had more goals.”