England boss Roy Hodgson insists his side's World Cup fate remains in their own hands despite their 1-1 draw in Montenegro.
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After a sparking first-half display, during which Wayne Rooney had given England a sixth-minute lead, the visitors were made to pay for a shoddy performance after the break as they continually gave away possession.
Joe Hart made a couple of excellent saves before Dejan Damjanovic grabbed Montenegro's leveller.
The result leaves England second in Group H, still two points behind their opponents.
However, that gap may well have grown to five before Hodgson's side are next in competitive action in September, and they are still to beat any of the major opponents in the group.
"It is still in our own hands," said Hodgson.
"We still have to play Montenegro at home, Poland at home and Ukraine away.
"You are bringing it back to the result against Ukraine at home, when we would have liked to win but we drew.
"I suppose you could say Ukraine away will be crucial, but we still have three of our four games at home, so we will try to make certain we keep it in our hands by winning those matches."
The difference between England first and second-half performances could not have been more marked.
Yet the outcome might well have been different had the visitors been awarded a penalty for a foul on Danny Welbeck by former Manchester City defender Stefan Savic which referee Jonas Eriksson amazingly saw as a dive by the forward.
"I have not seen a replay but I don't think Danny would have wanted to go down in that situation," said Hodgson.
"We had several opportunities in the first half when we got behind their defence but it didn't quite come off for us."
Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic admitted it should have been a penalty, although he argued Rooney had fouled one of his own players in the build-up to his 35th England goal.
"It is possible that there was a penalty but did you see Rooney before he scored the goal?" said Brnovic.
"I like an attacking strategy, but against England it was not totally the way to go and they showed in the first half how strong they are.
"If we had been complete in our line-up we would have been even more successful."
Brnovic claimed that if Montenegro beat Ukraine in Podgorica on June 9, they would be assured of at least a play-off berth.
For England to avoid landing that dubious prize, they will have to start winning key matches, and that means they must start to keep the ball better, with midfield duo Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick both guilty of profligacy at a time when the visitors needed them to take the sting out of the contest.
"To have won that game we would have needed to play in the second half like we did in the first," said Hodgson.
"Unfortunately we didn't pass the ball in the midfield areas and we lost control in that area of the field.
"Montenegro were able to take the game to us and had a couple of chances before they scored.
"My overall feeling is one of disappointment because at half-time I thought things were looking good for us.
"But it is not a bad result because Montenegro are a difficult team to beat."
There was one unfortunate post-script after the final whistle when a supporter who had been using a loud-hailer to whip up the crowd, uttered an obscenity about England when their fans were still in the stadium.
With the game twice having to be stopped due to objects being thrown on the pitch, it did not paint the Montenegro supporters in a positive light for all the immense noise they made.
"That is the way you support your national team, except for some objects that were thrown on to the pitch, but that happens sometimes" said Brnovic.