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Roy Hodgson faces moment of reckoning – Martin Samuel

Cagey Roy faces his moment of reckoning after England stutter to Poland draw

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UPDATED:

21:45 GMT, 17 October 2012

Top of the group, unbeaten in 11 games under Roy Hodgson, a point away from home, Wayne Rooney on the scoresheet again, so why did this not feel like the best of times for England

Perhaps because we can see what is coming. There is a moment of reckoning.

It may occur later in the season against Montenegro, or in the tournament itself in two summers’ time, but England cannot continue playing like this and hope to thrive.

Plenty to ponder: England manager Roy Hodgson saw his side struggle to a draw with Poland

Plenty to ponder: England manager Roy Hodgson saw his side struggle to a draw with Poland

Only one team should feel disappointed by a single point out of this game and it is the hosts.

Poland were more creative, more entertaining to watch and had the better chances. Both goals came from set-pieces but whereas this was just about all England offered, Poland were busy but wasteful with their final ball.

Hodgson’s England are famed for being hard to beat, but a better team would surely have won comfortably against them here. Poland are technically impressive, but lack a definitive finisher. Thank heavens.

When Hodgson took over, the fear was he would be a cautious coach and so it is proving. /10/17/article-2219292-158D08E7000005DC-235_634x343.jpg” width=”634″ height=”343″ alt=”Tough times: England players look dejected after Poland level the score in Warsaw” class=”blkBorder” />

Tough times: England players look dejected after Poland level the score in Warsaw

Carrick did not secure the centre defensively and his passing was inferior. Jack Wilshere cannot return soon enough; nor can Frank Lampard.

It was hardly a match worth waiting for. Those who travelled through rain to watch the game that wasn’t on Tuesday will be compensated and they would appear to have got the best of the deal.

Around 800 England fans returned to the National Stadium in Warsaw for this and they were, for the most part, a mute presence.

Loyal to the end, they know the reality. England lead Group H but that position is misleading.

Montenegro have a game in hand and it will take place at home to San Marino on November 14.
Barring a stunning upset, plague-like illness or the biggest coup at the bookmakers since the Hole In One Gang, Montenegro will top the table by Christmas.

They are the dark horses here. Montenegro have already defeated Ukraine away; the opponents England failed to beat at Wembley, and drew home and away with England in the qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championship.

Not up to it: Michael Carrick struggled in the England midfield

Not up to it: Michael Carrick struggled in the England midfield

It is far too early to panic, but the fact remains that after four World Cup qualifying matches, the only nations Hodgson’s England have vanquished are Moldova and San Marino, ranked 47th and 53rd out of 53 teams in Europe.

The manager might not lose, but he is hardly enjoying a winning streak, either. Carry on like this and there will be matches in which only victory will do. Being hard to beat in those will ultimately be as valuable as the ability to juggle skittles.

The one development that has gone against Hodgson is the international retirement of John Terry. Put the circumstances to one side for a moment and consider his absence, instead, purely in football terms.

There were those who claimed he would not be missed. Madness. The words of goalkeeper Joe Hart before last week’s match with San Marino were ominous.

‘Football-wise the guy is an inspiration,’ said Hart. ‘He’s a great centre half, a great servant to his country and it’s a shame we’ve lost him. It’s a big blow. He’s still got so much ability.’

San Marino were never going to expose the hole where Terry once stood, but Poland most certainly did.

At fault: Joe Hart had one of his worst games for England and was partly to blame for Poland's goal

At fault: Joe Hart had one of his worst games for England and was partly to blame for Poland's goal

Specifically, his absence sucked the
confidence out of Hart, who had his least convincing game in an England
shirt for some time and was partly at fault for Poland’s equaliser.

Goalkeepers like to feel safe with the men around them. The central defenders like a goalkeeper they can lean on: the relationship between Hart and Terry was crucial to England.

Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, Liverpool stalwarts, would never have a word said against the maverick Bruce Grobbelaar in goal.

Hansen’s point was that they always knew where they stood with Grobbelaar.

‘He came for everything,’ he recalled. ‘A defender wants to know precisely where he stands and we did with Bruce.

‘If a cross came into the penalty area, get out of the way because he’s going for it. Knowing that, we could concentrate on protecting the goal, just in case. He missed the odd one, but it was worth it for the certainty.’

Stronger together: John Terry and Hart

Stronger together: John Terry and Hart

Hart and Terry might not have had the familiarity of clubmates, but they had faith. Terry did not appear as confident with David James or Robert Green, for instance, as he did with Hart.

And it is worth remembering that Hart has lost not one, but two great central defenders: Rio Ferdinand being the other.

He knows Joleon Lescott from Manchester City — although he does not always make Roberto Mancini’s team — and Phil Jagielka has again been impressive for Everton this season but this triumvirate needs time.

Jagielka played as if under duress from his Polish relatives and, defensively, England were an accident waiting to happen: a trait inconsistent with the mantle of being hard to beat.

Ferdinand and Terry were also the best passers among England’s central defenders and that showed too on Wednesday night.

The Poles were more than happy for Jagielka and Lescott to have the ball, sensing that no good would come of it.

Ferdinand is known for his football brain, but Terry’s excellent passing is often overlooked. The toxic fall-out from his abuse of Anton Ferdinand makes him a hard player to miss, but judged purely for football reasons the void was noticeable in Warsaw.

It is hard to imagine it being very different in Podgorica, Kiev and, most worryingly, Wembley.

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England v Poland

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London 2012 Olympics: Ben Ainslie struggling in Weymouth

Sailing legend Ainslie struggling to maintain gold rush after fresh defeat in Weymouth

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UPDATED:

14:19 GMT, 31 July 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Ben Ainslie saw his assault on Olympic gold stutter once again on Tuesday as he finished behind Finn leader Jonas Hogh-Christensen for a fifth time at London 2012.

The three-time gold medallist is the undoubted star of the British sailing team and over-riding favourite to top the podium on home waters.

However, Ainslie has failed to overcome Hogh-Christensen this week and got off to a poor start in Tuesday's first race.

Choppy waters: Ben Ainslie is struggling to stamp his authority in the Finn class

Choppy waters: Ben Ainslie is struggling to stamp his authority in the Finn class

The 35-year-old managed to claw back places as the race went on, but could only finish fourth as the Dane got his third bullet of the regatta to extend his lead at the top of the overall standings.

Ainslie moves up to second but lies nine points shy of Hogh-Christensen after both their worst results are discarded.

Overall for the British team, though, it was a better start to the day after a frustrating time on Monday.

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson continued their fine form in the Star class by winning race five at a canter, with rivals Brazil following them home 50 seconds later.

Olympic debutant Ali Young followed up her sturdy start to the regatta with a second in the day's first Laser Radial race, which was won by Ireland's Annalise Murphy for the third race in succession.

Close run thing: Jonas Hogh-Christensen of Denmark continues to lead the way

Close run thing: Jonas Hogh-Christensen of Denmark continues to lead the way

Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes started well in the 49er class, having posted two 12th place finishes on Monday.

The British pair finished the day's first race third and were well placed in the second, only to capsize and come home 18th.

Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continue to lead the 49er class after finishing second to New Zealand in the first race and fourth in the second, having capsized when leading.

Meanwhile, the RS:X class began on Tuesday and Nick Dempsey got off to solid start, hauling himself up the fleet in both races to post a fifth and seventh.

The Norwich-born windsurfer was fourth overall, while the Netherlands' Dorian van Rijsselberge won both races.

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Roberto Mancini snubs Tony Pulis and media after Man City stutter in title race

Cracking up! Mancini snubs Pulis and media after Man City stutter in title race

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 24 March 2012

Battered and bruised Manchester City were left fuming by Stoke’s physical approach after suffering a major blow to their Premier League title dreams by being held to a 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium.

Manager Roberto Mancini was so enraged by Stoke’s treatment of his team that he refused to shake hands with rival manager Tony Pulis at the end of the game and asked assistant David Platt to speak to the media while he attempted to cool down.

Angry: Roberto Mancini after the final whistle

Fuming: Roberto Mancini after the final whistle

Mancini was furious at the manner in
which Mario Balotelli appeared to be targeted by Stoke defenders, while
David Silva suffered a cut ear and was forced to wear a head bandage
after being hit by Dean Whitehead’s elbow as they challenged for a
header. ‘Robbie is worried that he might say something that gets him in
hot water,’ said Platt. ‘It is very difficult when you come here and you
look for a bit of protection.

‘You know Stoke are going to compete and go for every ball. But after 90
minutes like that, you might get a different view if you watch it back
on the video. I wouldn’t accuse the player of going for David Silva, I
think he’s just competitive and that’s just the way they play.’

Difference of opinion: Mancini and Stoke manager Tony Pulis (left) clash on the touchline

Difference of opinion: Mancini and Stoke manager Tony Pulis (left) clash on the touchline

Stoke’s tactics ensured City were far from their best and after a Peter
Crouch wonder goal broke the deadlock in the second half, the striker
teeing up the ball then volleying in from 32 yards, it took a deflected
Yaya Toure shot to earn a point and leave City top on goal difference,
having played a game more than title rivals Manchester United.

Platt shrugged off suggestions that the mind games played by United
manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who claimed City were desperate for recalling
Carlos Tevez to their ranks, were responsible for the slip-up.

Dejected: Manchester City players react to dropping two points at Stoke

Dejected: Manchester City players react to dropping two points at Stoke

Platt said: ‘You don’t win the league through mind games, it’s about
players going onto the pitch to win and gain points and if we have more
points than them at the end of the season, everyone will perceive that
Robbie has won that war of words.’

Stoke manager Pulis dismissed Mancini’s refusal to shake his hand,
saying: ‘He’s got to do what he’s got to do.’ Pulis claimed Stoke should
have had a first-half penalty for a Gareth Barry challenge on Glenn
Whelan.

In front: Peter Crouch celebrates scoring Stoke's goal at the Britannia Stadium

Up for it: Peter Crouch celebrates scoring Stoke's goal at the Britannia Stadium

Asked about Stoke’s approach, Pulis added: ‘If people want to question
their commitment, honesty and togetherness then so be it, but they are
an honest group of players who work very, very hard. I thought Peter
Crouch was fantastic tonight, the best player on the pitch. It was a
fantastic goal, but he’s a technically-gifted lad.’