MANAGER Roy Hodgson hailed the conduct of England supporters in Dublin, but could find few words of praise for his players after they stuttered to a dull 0-0 draw yesterday at the Aviva Stadium.
England’s first trip to play the Republic of Ireland in 20 years passed off without incident in the stands.
The England supporters heeded the Football Association’s warning to refrain from chanting inflammatory songs during the first match the Three Lions have played in Dublin since the Lansdowne Road riot of 1995.
But they had little to cheer about either as they were subjected to one of the most tedious England games in living memory.
Hodgson struggled to find any positives from the stalemate in the Irish capital.
“We set ourselves high standards and got nowhere near them in the first half,” the England manager said.
“We were marginally better in the second half, but we were very critical of ourselves.
“We’ve had a good run, a year almost unbeaten, but we came here believing if we played our best football we could win the game and we never got close to that.
“We didn’t lose, but we have to accept there were a lot of things we could have done better.”
England had put up a spirited fight to draw in Italy in their previous fixture, but there was a clear lack of spark from Hodgson’s team against the Irish.
England mustered just three shots on target and captain Wayne Rooney stumbled when through on goal to waste the visitors’ best chance of the afternoon.
Hodgson concedes his men will have to perform better at next year’s European Championship in France.
“It’s important we are critical and continue to set ourselves high standards,” said the England boss, who takes his team to Slovenia next Sunday for the final Euro 2016 qualifier of the season.
“We want to go to France and play teams there, and we’ll have to play better than we did here.”
The only crumb of comfort for Hodgson was that there was no repeat of the trouble that marred England’s previous visit to Dublin two decades ago when the match had to be abandoned after away fans started throwing missiles on to the pitch.
“The atmosphere in the stadium and the behaviour of the fans was a remarkable positive,” Hodgson said.
Only a handful of supporters sang “No surrender” during the national anthem, and they were drowned out by their fellow supporters in an act of self-policing.
The Football Association said no England fans were arrested in the ground.
The subdued atmosphere inside the ground was understandable given the poor quality of football on show.
Ireland had the better chances of the afternoon. Daryl Murphy spurned two good opportunities in the first half and Joe Hart saved a powerful volley from Jon Walters after the break.
Hodgson’s home counterpart Martin O’Neill was happy with his Republic team’s showing ahead of Saturday’s crucial qualifier against Scotland.
“It was exactly what we needed,” the Republic manager said.
“In the last 15 minutes we looked pretty tired, but we started off brightly and maybe could have scored a couple of goals.
“We certainly had a couple of decent chances.
“But overall it was good for us and from a physical viewpoint it couldn’t have been better timed.”
The Republic will leapfrog Scotland in their qualifying group if they win at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday.
Luckily for the former Aston Villa manager, it looks as though he will have a full squad to choose from.
“Jon (Walters) was just feeling a little bit, but I think everybody’s okay,” O’Neill said.
“John O’Shea’s calf was tightening up on him, so I made a change there. It’s something he’s suffered a little bit from in the past and I’m hoping in the next couple of games he comes through that.”
O’Neill confirmed Robbie Keane will land in Ireland today.
“He will join in with training on Tuesday,” O’Neill said of the Ireland captain, who was given permission to miss the England game so he could play in the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 1-0 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.
Match report: Page 7.