England manager Roy Hodgson makes case for the defence

ROY HODGSON has leapt to the defence of an England back four that continues to cause concern ahead of Euro 2016.

England goalkeeper Fraser Forster during the International Friendly match at Wembley Stadium

The Three Lions’ Easter double-header saw four goals conceded as the 3-2 win over Germany in Berlin was followed by a 2-1 defeat to Holland at Wembley.

That the Dutch are at a low ebb and yet caused England plenty of problems on Tuesday night again put the spotlight on a defence that will be tested to the full in the summer at the Championships.

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“Getting the right back four is important,” said Hodgson. “But before these two games we played ten qualifying matches and let in three goals.

England manager Roy Hodgson watches on from the bench during the International Friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

“We haven’t let in an awful lot of goals. I think it would be a concern if Holland had created loads and loads of chances against us and had over-run us and looked as if they were going to score on every occasion.

“But I think if you are going to really put down the two goals they scored to enormous problems in defence then I think that is really taking the matter too far.

“I think you are working on the basis that we have conceded four goals and you are not analysing the goals. The first goal (against Germany) comes when our goalkeeper (Jack Butland), with a broken foot, tries to kick the ball out and then actually can’t save the shot because he has got a broken foot.

“And on Tuesday night, we saw two goals where a guy who, in my opinion, is trying to block the ball – and block it well – it happens to hit him on the hand and a penalty is given against us.

England manager Roy Hodgson watches on from the bench during the International Friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

“And the second one, in my opinion, is a situation which we have got clearly under control defensively and where a foul against our centre-back gives them a goal.”

Hodgson’s point about Holland’s second goal, when Phil Jagielka was clearly fouled in the build-up, is valid. But, the handball against Danny Rose for the penalty was the right decision, with the far more concerning aspect from a Three Lions perspective being the slip by John Stones moments earlier.

Having received the ball from Danny Drinkwater on the edge of the area, the 21-year-old former Barnsley defender tried to turn away from the onrushing Vincent Janssen. Unfortunately, in doing so, Stones slipped and Janssen pounced on the ball before bringing a smart save from Fraser Forster.

England never regained their shape, and within seconds Rose had handled to give the visitors a path back into the contest.

Asked about Stones’s slip, which followed several other mistakes by the Everton defender this season, Hodgson said: “That is what playing for England is.

“Unfortunately, John will have to come to terms with that. It is hard enough getting away from it in the Premier League.

“For me, a slip is a slip. I don’t know that I, as a football coach and as an ex-footballer, will put quite so much importance on the fact that he slipped in that moment.

“But I can’t either change your way of thinking or way of considering it or the way people outside of here consider it.

“Sometimes, people have had careers ruined by being unlucky. I would put that slip down to misfortune.

“If I analysed his 90-minute performance, I don’t think I would criticise him too heavily over the whole 90 minutes.”

Forster believes England were hard done by with the two refereeing decisions that went against them.

There was a degree of controversy about both of Holland’s goals and Forster, the Southampton goalkeeper who is now set to be second choice behind Joe Hart after Jack Butland broke his 
ankle in Germany said: “Nine times out of 10 you probably get the foul.

“As Jags has gone to clear the ball, he’s obviously just tripped him but the referee hasn’t seen it. We’ve just got to take that and move on.

“On the penalty it’s one of those where it could have gone either way.

“His hand is down by his side and there’s so little reaction time but then it has hit his arm.

“So it’s disappointing, both goals are hard to take.

“We probably deserved a bit more.”

One player Hodgson was delighted with against both Holland and Germany was Sheffield-born Jamie Vardy, who continued his incredible season with a goal in each game and a strong performance.

“We are happy with him,” added the Three Lions chief. “His task first target is to fire Leicester to a Premier League win, that will be his major goal.

“As long as he can keep that form going then I am sure he is someone we will be looking forward to seeing in an England shirt for a long time to come. He is 28, so he is not a youngster compared to the others.

“But he is very, very young in terms of his top class playing career.

“He is a very fit guy so he is not going to be burnt out at the age of 31, 32.”

Vardy’s pledge: Page 22