Abject England cling on to draw

But manager Roy Hodgson retains qualification hopes



ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson believes his team are still well placed to qualify for the World Cup, despite being held in Podgorica last night.

Wayne Rooney’s 35th goal for England was cancelled out by a close-range finish from Dejan Damjanovic in the second half as the visitors were left hanging on.

The draw keeps Hodgson’s team two points behind their hosts at the top of Group H.

But with crucial qualifiers against Moldova, Montenegro and Poland still to be played at Wembley later this year, Hodgson remains confident of guiding the Three Lions to next year’s finals in Brazil.

“We must not be too disappointed,” he said. “There is a long way to go yet and the draw gives us a chance to build for the future.

“We have three of our last four matches at home and we will see how it goes against our fellow contenders.

“Our first half was good, but we didn’t start the second half as well as we would have liked and that gave Montenegro encouragement.

“We hung on well and finished strongly, but during their good spell they got an equaliser and robbed us of a victory.”

Rooney, sent off the last time he represented England in Montenegro, took only six minutes to find redemption.

Having already hit the post with a delightfully angled chip, as goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic slipped, the Manchester United forward got on the scoresheet to head in Steven Gerrard’s corner from eight yards.

The visitors continued to dominate the first half and went close to adding a second when Bozovic tipped a fizzing effort from Glen Johnson over the crossbar and James Milner drove wide from the edge of the box.

Forward Danny Welbeck was harshly cautioned for a dive on the stroke of half-time under heavy pressure from former Manchester City defender Stefan Savic inside the penalty area, as an abject Montenegro team desperately hung on.

However, the home side were transformed in the second half and immediately cranked up the pressure.

Stevan Jovetic was inches away from an equaliser when his header hit the side netting.

Mirko Vucinic and Jovetic both tested the reactions of busy England goalkeeper Joe Hart and Montenegro were denied by the woodwork after Elsad Zverotic’s corner was deflected onto the outside of the far post.

England’s resistance was finally broken with 15 minutes remaining though, when the defence failed to clear Zverotic’s corner and Damjanovic swept in the loose ball.

Gerrard had England’s best chances of the second half, but was twice denied by goalkeeper Bozovic in the closing minutes.