Frank Lampard has called for patience as England attempt to integrate younger players into the senior setup over the course of their World Cup qualification campaign, but insists there were still positives to be picked up from Tuesday's draw with Ukraine at Wembley.
The Chelsea midfielder's late penalty, his 26th international goal, salvaged a point for the home side after England initially struggled to contain slippery opponents. Roy Hodgson had been handicapped by the absence of 12 senior players for the fixture, with the youngsters in the ranks who had excelled in defeating Moldova last week duly struggling to muster repeat performances against more imposing rivals, yet there was encouragement to be had from the hosts' late rally to secure a draw.
"Of course it won't click straight away," said Lampard, who will captain the side, form and fitness permitting, for next month's visit of San Marino in the absence of the suspended Steven Gerrard. "Sometimes it won't click at all. It's international football. Ukraine are no mugs. We have a mixture of young players and more experienced players, and we're trying to find the right blend. We can get excited about a win in Moldova but you have to understand that it's a process of getting where we want to be. Ukraine was another night in the process.
"They're a good team. They have some quality players, wingers who are good on the ball, so this group was never going to be easy. Poland and Montenegro aren't mugs, either, and can cause you problems. They've drawn already, so the group's well balanced. The point against Ukraine seems to me like a good point at the moment. San Marino we should win, and then Poland [four days later] will give us a tough game. But we have to learn. If there was a negative to take from the Ukraine game, it was that, if a team goes man to man in midfield and tightens up, maybe lets our defence have it, that's where we need to show more invention. But it's hard to be too critical. We kept going and got the point we deserved at the very least."
Two of those absent at Wembley on Tuesday, Ashley Cole and John Terry, returned to training at Chelsea on Wednesday after ankle injuries and hope to be fit to feature for their club in Saturday's potentially combustible west London derby at Queens Park Rangers. Both would expect to play in next month's games against San Marino and Poland, in Warsaw, with Hodgson hopeful to have other significant performers restored by then. Yet the younger players will have benefited from the experience of life on a tougher stage, with Tuesday's toils an education for the likes of Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
"They'll have learned a lot more [than against Moldova]," Jermain Defoe said. "Ukraine were really organised and that's when you've got to think: your movement has to be good and you have to keep the ball better. Against teams like that, if you lose the ball they can hit you on the counter-attack and score. So it's important to be focused throughout the whole game. We're certainly not panicking after one draw. It's a good result, and there are a lot of games to come. If you look at the way the team is playing, we don't look like we're going to be beaten.
"There was great energy in that second half, we kept it going and made them look really tired. And they're a good side. They showed that at the Euros, when they were the best team we played against. They were sharp and had good movement, organised, and were just as good without the ball. But we still deserved something, and we know we're capable of picking up plenty of points ourselves away from home."
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