Sorry about the long break chaps. I've been having a great time with the challenging task of actually having a great time without much money in London. After the previous Saturday/Sunday's marathon session getting to Watford, I made next to no progress in getting as far as Wembley in Brent within the following 9 days. That's 9.2 miles, an average of 1 mile per day.
Of course, the reason why being I wanted to stay around for the England-Wales game, but I did manage to keep fit by a slight detour to Barnet for a horrendously poor 0-0 against Accrington. My yearning for a break following an intense hike to Watford lasted only a few days before I went hunting for another new ground. I did manage to catch a couple of red cards for my troubles and although I'm sure Accrington are more convincing at home, there was a strong sense of also-rans in this tie. Trust the weekend I arrive in London to be an international break with England playing away.
Well the rather longer trip to Bulgaria for England did bear fruit, in a 3-0 away win. England were not great entertainment value but on the other hand could be described as having done an efficient job on their hosts, taking full advantage of glaring defensive weaknesses. Marking and positioning were great strengths of the legendary Lothar Matthaeus, but not attributes he has been able to project onto his current project. I think I may have spotted better defending at Barnet.
A 13th minute corner was only cleared as far as Barry, who produced a useful 30 yard ball to Cahill, who managed to control and tuck it home well. Not bad in the box for a centre back, that lad. Rooney headed home a Downing corner to make England comfortable well before half time - set pieces looking to be a weak point for the home side. And that was stretched further in injury time with another for Rooney, Walcott and Young combining nicely before setting him up.
The second half died a slow death, unfortunately. We have all seen this England performance before, just doing the job and letting the rest of the game play out. As the old adage goes, however, 'you can only beat what's in front of you'. What we did see is that Joe Hart doesn't readily sleep on the pitch. One more thing of note: with a midfield trio of Barry, Parker and Milner, this was the first competitive England game for several years that did not feature either Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard. It went as well as expected without them.
Full of excitement and ambition for Tuesday then? Well sort of. It was great to see such a fixture in a first class stadium, but Capello went back on his 'bold' move of dropping Lampard and confusingly threw him straight back in the team. There was a real lack of drive from England. There was little threat to the goal until 35 minutes when Downing worked the ball down the right and cut a short cross back to Young who stroked it in with ease.
Other than this flurry of activity either side of half time, there were few positives for England. Wales grew into the game and began rendering chances, the best of which Earnshaw dramatically spurred just yards in front of goal, with Hart beaten. England rode their luck and mustn't let it happen again. There are very few serious games like this for a national team before they are put to the final test in the tournament proper. If they fail to take control of the game against Montenegro on 7th October, they will almost certainly have topped the group and will have 'done enough' anyway, but it will be an essentially poor preparation for Euro 2012.
Anyway, I have moved on, got my head down and made it to Rochester, Kent in the 7 days since then, which is a wonderful place, but I do plan to get a move on now and see some of the continent.