WATCH: Gareth Southgate's England post-match interview

Gareth Southgate's happiness at securing World Cup qualification was tempered by an uninspiring performance that underlines just how much England work have to do.

Friday, 6th October 2017, 9:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 11:57 am
Gareth Southgate at Wembley last night

Harry Kane fired the country to victory and next summer's finals in Russia last night, but in truth the Three Lions put in a concerning display as they limped to a late 1-0 win against Slovenia.

An England performance as ponderous as it was underwhelming meant those in attendance seemed more excited about paper planes landing around the pitch than matters on it.

Southgate knows there is plenty of work to do to prevent next year's World Cup going the same way as recent major tournaments, with it "blindingly obvious" to the England boss that they could have done better at sparsely-filled Wembley.

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Gareth Southgate at Wembley last night

"No, not relief," Southgate said. "I always felt that we would achieve the objective.

"I think tonight highlighted where we are. Of course we'd have loved to have played more fluidly and scored more goals.

"We played a team who came to make it really difficult for us to create chances. We had some good individual attacking moments without being able to make the final ball or there were blocks or fouls that broke the game up, so that was frustrating.

"We had to find a way of winning by being a bit more savvy because we were not flowing with the ball, but we have got goalscorers.

Gareth Southgate at Wembley last night

"The important thing was to stay resilient through what was a difficult period - probably half an hour from the end - where there was a bit of anxiety you could see, an important save from Joe Hart, and we have to become a team who scores late goals and doesn't concede them. That's become a little bit of a theme the last few games.

"Was it the performance we wanted and the night we wanted? No, absolutely not.

"But I was given the job to keep things steady a year ago. The objective was to qualify for Russia. Now we have the opportunity to look how we evolve the team.

"We had to keep winning and we have to keep giving young players the opportunity to mature, so to marry those things is difficult."

While Thursday's performance was not how Southgate wanted to celebrate his year in charge, the outcome deserves credit after he was parachuted into the job following Sam Allardyce's abrupt exit.

Sunday's final Group F match in Lithuania offers the chance to give England fans something to cheer about, while allowing Southgate to experiment as World Cup preparations get under way.

"In the end, for English football it's crucial to be at the World Cup," Southgate said. "Absolutely crucial for everybody - probably quite critical for the economy as well.

"I am not going to hide and say we are exactly where we want to be or the performance was what we'd have liked it to be.

"But we have had, in my period in charge, six wins, two draws, with one of the best defensive records in Europe in qualifying.

"We have got players that we think can score goals and we know exactly where we can improve."