England enjoy phoney war

 

DARREN ANDERTON and David Platt, the men who fired the first shots for Terry Venables two years ago, were back on target in England's 3-0 destruction of a poor Hungarian side at Wembley on Saturday. With the Euro `96 finals just three weeks away, Venables must now know his squad and starting line-up for the Switzerland game on June 8th.

Jason Wilcox and Gareth Southgate, two of his most recent finds, may be there. Anderton, two goals in his first England game in a year, took the headlines, but Aston Villa defender Southgate, in only his third appearance, superbly filled the hole in the heart of England's radical defensive system when Mark Wright departed injured after only 12 minutes.

Debutant Wilcox, who had just 723 minutes' action for Blackburn this season, brought a balance and a delivery from the left that Steve McManaman has rarely managed. Bring in Paul Gascoigne for the industrious and impressive Robert Lee - surely removing any doubts about his squad place - and Alan Shearer for Les Ferdinand, and England's line-up looks complete.

These days nobody gets carried away about beating Hungary. Iraq and Iceland have beat them recently. But for England, who have managed just five goals in six games this season, the goals could not have come at a better time.

Anderton, back after just four appearances for Tottenham since his surgical appointments this season, quickly picked up where he left off.

For a worrying 25 minutes, however, England were turgid. "We were coming back towards the ball and the back three couldn't see the front two," said Venables. "When I sent the wingers right up in line with Ferdinand and had the wide midfielders coming out, they could see the front players and all of a sudden it all unwrapped and started to go."

The chances flowed and this time they were taken as England enjoyed their biggest win in two years. Wilcox, unlucky to hit the bar with his first touch, a powerful second-minute header did what he does best, delivering the ball early.

Anderton finally put the frustration behind England in the 36th minute, a goal made by his Tottenham team-mate Sheringham. Vilmos Sebok's lunge to intercept Stuart Pearce's throw down the left succeeded only in turning Sheringham clear and, though his dipping cross was missed by Ferdinand diving in the near post, no-one picked up Anderton sliding in at the back.

The momentum increased in the second half when Ferdinand was cruelly chopped down just outside the area by Sebok and Paul Ince spotted a gap in the lazily-constructed Hungarian wall. He prodded the free kick through for Platt to pursue.

The Arsenal midfielder looked to have pushed the ball too far ahead as Zsolt Petry raced off his line but, though the keeper blocked, the ball flew back past him off Platt's knee. It was his 27th goal in his 58th international, putting him ahead of Bryan Rob son in clear eighth spot in the list of England's all-time goalscoring chart.

Ten minutes later it was and Anderton had his fifth goal in to caps.