Gareth Southgate praised John Stones for showing resilience after the centre-back recovered from a costly error and helped England to stay top of their World Cup qualifying group with an edgy victory against Poland at Wembley.
Stones, who has regained his place in the squad after impressing for Manchester City this season, was at fault when he dithered after receiving the ball from his goalkeeper, Nick Pope, and allowed Jakub Moder to cancel out Harry Kane’s early penalty. But the centre-back made amends when he headed down for Harry Maguire to secure England their third successive win in Group I.
“What we’ve focused on in the last 18 months is eradicating those errors,” Southgate said.
“Tonight we’ve lost a goal but the pleasing thing was John in particular regained his composure quickly, recovered in the game and thankfully had an important part in the winning goal. He’s built a lot of resilience over that period and I didn’t think the pass to him helped, it brought more pressure on.”
England wobbled after Poland’s goal but Southgate decided not to make any attacking substitutions, reasoning that he needed Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice to keep winning the ball in central midfield.
“Our attacking players were having individual moments,” the England manager said. “We felt the importance of Declan and Kalvin in that period for giving us stability in front of the defence was really key. In the end we stuck with it. We knew if we didn’t get the result we’d be really criticised. Sometimes you have to hold your nerve.”
Poland provided strong opposition in England’s final game before Southgate names his squad for the European Championship finals. “We know there is improvement needed to become a top, top team,” he said.
“But today was a good test for us. A good test in terms of our opponent, but also in terms of our resilience.
“In the first half we found the spaces down the sides of their block really well, but some of our passing was poor. I was pleased with the way we saw the final moments of the game out. We showed better game management after we scored.”