England 1 Australia 0: Three Lions go funky to limited effect as stand-ins fail to impress
Southgate used a friendly against Australia to try out a few interesting things. Interesting, though, was the word for it, certainly not gripping.
England's show of squad depth highlighted the back-ups have a way to go as Australia were a clang of the woodwork from claiming a 1-1 draw from their first visit to Wembley.
If this was an opportunity to force Southgate's hand if not on Tuesday then certainly further down the line, no one really took it. Ollie Watkins' third England goal decided a flat contest but only made up for the two he ought to have had earlier.
One of the more noteworthy elements was the first of what will surely be many England caps for Levi Colwill.
Booked by female referee Stephanie Frappart for a bit of playground push-and-shove, his passing was wayward at times, his defending not as sharp as it ought to have been, Colwill did not seize his chance but that is no cause for panic.
A teenage Rashford might have scored on his debut but Rooney was not even the best Merseyside-born striker to start his England career at Upton Park a fortnight before Colwill was born, and in fairness, his panned out rather better than goalscorer Francis Jeffers'.
England's experimental line-up played some very modern football in the first half in particular.
When England had the ball, Trent Alexander-Arnold abandoned his right-back position to do what he does for Liverpool and become an orthodox central midfielder. That pushed Conor Gallager into the "three-quarter line" between the holding midfielders and Watkins and voila, 4-2-3-1 became 3-2-4-1 as Colwill slipped from left-back into the position he shone at on loan at Huddersfield Town, centre-back.
Experimentation is what friendlies have to be about to have relevance in the overcrowded schedule.
The theory was better than the practice, not that the unfamiliarity of the players helped.
That said, England nearly scored from the sort of split-centre-backs goalkick that would set your dad doing his best Fred Trueman impression. Inviting Australia on, England sliced through the press, worked the ball down the left and James Maddison threaded a lovely pass to Watkins. His shot from a tight angle agonisingly trundled onto the post.
The in-form Watkins should have scored in the eighth minute when Jarod Bowen released Gallagher in the right corner only for Watkins to air-shoot what should have been a tap-in ruined.
Most of the first-half highlights, though, came from the men in gold.
Kanu Baccus forced the first decent save when his curling shot clipped Fikayo Tomori. Matt Duke volleyed just wide under pressure from the former Hull City loanee. Kye Rowles shot over after England made a Horlicks of defending a corner.
Lewis Dunk made an excellent goalline clearance from Ryan Strain after England were opened up by a straight ball, Colwill beaten too easily once Martin Boyle controlled it.
Maddison's shot out for a throw-in 10 yards behind the corner flag – he was offside anyway – was emblematic of England's first half.
The second started much better and after 57 minutes Jack Grealish showed his usual technique to fire in what he thought would be the opening goal, only for Watkins to pinch it a yard or so out.
Soon substitutes poured on and Alexander-Arnold was allowed to concentrate on midfield.
John Stones got a valuable half-hour on his return from injury, as did Kalvin Phillips, and former Leeds United loanee Eddie Nketiah an England debut from a bench so big the Football Association could not fit the teamsheet on one page.
The game had slumped into a stupor when Connor Metcalfe nearly revived it, heading against a post at an 80th-minute corner. His free header showed set-pieces need some work this weekend.
We can probably expect something a bit more orthodox on Tuesday, when victory over the Italians can book a place at the European Championship. Then, though, it needs to be back to experimentation – but hopefully a bit more successful and exciting than this one.
England: Johnstone; Tomori (Stones 61), Dunk, Colwill; Alexander-Arnold, Henderson (Trippier 61); Bowen, Gallagher (Phillips 61), Maddison (Foden, 73), Grealish (Rashford 61); Watkins (Nketiah 73). Unused substitutes: Ramsdale, Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Guehi, Rice, Bellingham, Kane.
Australia: Ryan; Strain(Miller 73), Souttar, Burgess, Rowles (Behich 83); Boyle (Mabil 83), Baccus, Irvine, Goodwin (Borrello 73); Metcalfe (Toure 90), Duke (Bos 73). Unused substitutes: Degenek, Silvera, Redmayne, O'Neill, Glover, Luongo, Circati, Robertson, Yazbeck.
Referee: S Frappart (France).