Hodgson: Wilshere still not at 100%

Wilshere struggled in Ukraine. Photo: PA

Roy Hodgson believes Jack Wilshere's lack of match practice was the major reason for his below-par performance in England's goalless draw with Ukraine last night.

Handed his second start in four days following his 90-minute workout against Moldova on Friday, Wilshere did not enjoy the best of evenings.

The Arsenal man struggled to make an impact on a solid Ukraine defence and his normally forceful passing was completely off radar.

It was no surprise when Wilshere was replaced by Ashley Young midway through the second-half, not that the Manchester United man had much of an impact either.

However, as Hodgson knows only too well, Wilshere did not have the benefit of a full pre-season campaign as Arsene Wenger protected him after two years of problems with ankle and knee injuries.

And that is bound to have had an effect at the Olympic Stadium.

"Jack is still looking for full fitness," said Hodgson.

"That is why we took him off in the second-half.

"We certainly saw a much more effective Jack against Moldova, but he still did his work against Ukraine and, tactically, did all the things I asked of him."

It was not a night for flamboyance that is for sure.

Yet, just as he hoped when his squad gathered at St George's Park at the beginning of last week, England have rediscovered their defensive solidity.

Although some questioned the performance of Kyle Walker at right-back it is an unfair condemnation given his task of closing down Yevhen Konoplyanka was the toughest any England player faced last night.

Ashley Cole was in command on the other side, whilst Gary Cahill produced probably his finest international display alongside Phil Jagielka, who was not far behind.

"All our defenders were really good - and they needed to be," said Hodgson.

"If they had not been, the quality of our opponents, in front of a very fervent home crowd, created conditions that begged for a defeat."

Although Hodgson suggested beforehand Ukraine would be desperate for victory, in the end, another scenario unfolded.

Ukraine, who have a home game against a Poland side teetering on the brink of elimination before a trip to San Marino, will feel the point they collected last night will earn them a play-off berth at worst.

What they will now hope - and England must avoid - is for Montenegro or Poland to spring a surprise when they head to Wembley.

"It was a game where neither side will think they have lost points," said Hodgson.

"Both teams showed they have got the quality to get to the World Cup in Brazil but the major danger, for us and them if we are going to be 100 per cent honest, came from set plays."

Hodgson might have been irritated at the negativity that greeted yet another draw in a group where they have still only beaten Moldova and San Marino, but it was warranted, if not for that one performance alone. Ukraine are not a superpower, but then neither are England.

Shorn of Wayne Rooney's brilliance and the incision of Danny Welbeck, Rickie Lambert ended up isolated, and had Daniel Sturridge not been forced to miss out with a thigh injury, the in-form Liverpool man would surely have been introduced.

As it is, the pressure Hodgson spoke of prior to kick-off will be turned up another notch over the next four weeks.

The manager though is keeping a sense of perspective.

"It's a very tight group and there are a number of teams who can still qualify," said Hodgson.

"We are hoping that it will be us.

"It only becomes a must-win scenario when you know if you don't win you cannot qualify. That would mean being outside the top two.

"If you are second in the group there are always the play-offs

"As far as I am concerned, that is where the must-win scenario will kick in.

"I am rather hoping that won't happen to us."