SO much for packing an England team full of attackers then. For the first time in Gareth Southgate’s reign, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Mount all featured in the same starting line-up as Hungary visited Wembley last night. Suffice to say, the attacking experiment did not really work.

England looked unbalanced throughout as they laboured to a 1-1 draw, and while the result should not have a detrimental impact on qualification for the World Cup, with Southgate’s side still only needing to take four points from next month’s matches against Albania and San Marino to guarantee their qualification for Qatar, it could well influence the England boss’ thinking as he plans his line-up for the finals.

It could be argued that Kalvin Phillips, sidelined with a calf injury, was the only winner to emerge from last night’s game, with his absence leaving a gaping hole at the heart of the England midfield and forcing both Foden and Mount to play in a deeper role than they would ideally covet.

While Foden flickered into life sporadically, claiming the assist for John Stones’ first-half equaliser with a floated free-kick, neither he nor Mount were able to exert the kind of sustained attacking influence Southgate would have been hoping for. With Grealish and Sterling proving equally ineffective, and Harry Kane looking completely out of sorts, this was a stuttering England performance that was a throwback to some of the darker days that were once commonplace at Wembley. The sight of the home crowd entertaining themselves by throwing paper planes onto the pitch in the second half confirmed as much.

When he reflects on the balance of his side, Southgate will no doubt conclude that the 4-2-3-1 formation he fielded during the European Championships was much more effective than last night’s system.

It was an unsatisfying evening in a number of different ways, not least off the pitch, where the match did not pass off without incident. England’s win in Budapest at the start of last month had been marred by racist abuse and monkey chanting from the home fans, and it did not take long for Hungary’s visiting supporters to make their presence felt in an unwelcome fashion last night.

Less than a minute after kick-off, a large group of Hungarian supporters rushed to fight with police and stewards, with the Metropolitan Police subsequently stating that the incident had been sparked by one of their officers attempting to “arrest a spectator for a racially aggravated public order offence”. The fracas spilled down an exit onto the concourse beneath the stand housing the away contingent, and the brawling continued for a couple of minutes before the police appeared to beat a hasty retreat and order was gradually restored.

After the chaos of July’s European Championship final, the policing of internationals at Wembley will once again come under the spotlight, along with the recurring misbehaviour of Hungary’s fans, who let off a flare when their side opened the scoring. At some stage, UEFA are going to have to get serious when it comes to dishing out penalties.

Not, of course, that Hungary were complaining about the penalty they were awarded in the 24th minute of last night’s game. England had not been behind in any of their opening seven World Cup qualifiers, but they found themselves trailing midway through the first half of yesterday’s encounter following an error of judgement from Luke Shaw.

Shaw clearly thought he could hook the ball clear as he swivelled on the edge of his own penalty area, but he had either not seen Hungary’s Loic Nego or had miscalculated the distance between himself and the opposition midfielder. While he initially won the ball, Shaw caught Nego with his follow through, and once VAR had confirmed the incident took place inside the area, a penalty was awarded.

Roland Sallai stepped up to the same spot that had witnessed the penalty drama of July’s Euro 2020 final, and just as Jordan Pickford had found himself struggling to keep out Italy’s spot-kicks, so the Wearsider was unable to prevent Hungary’s striker firing his side into the lead.

England had cause to complain about the penalty decision, but they could not really grumble about being behind, such was the laxity of their performance in the opening half-hour or so. Perhaps it was complacency, or maybe it was the absence of Phillips, which appeared to unbalance the midfield, but England’s display in the first 30 minutes was as poor as they have played for quite some time.

They might have been further behind had Sallai not fired a first-time volley wide before he scored, but thankfully, from a home perspective, the opening goal appeared to spur Southgate’s players into life. Thirteen minutes after falling behind, England were level.

Foden floated over a free-kick from close to the right touchline, and while Declan Rice was unable to make any contact with his attempted flicked header, the ball deflected off a Hungarian defender into the path of Stones. The Manchester City centre-half was on the edge of the six-yard box, and was able to stab home at the back post to claim his first England goal since he netted a brace against Panama at the 2018 World Cup.

Having restored parity, England would have been ahead at half-time had Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi not displayed smart reflexes to keep out Sterling’s stoppage-time header.

Gulacsi also kept out Kane’s curled strike from the corner of the area 12 minutes into the second half, although that was a rare moment of threat from the England skipper, who continues to look some way short of his razor-sharp best, as exemplified by the 74th-minute shot he shanked horribly wide. Kane, who was replaced by Tammy Abraham for the final quarter-hour, has not looked the same player since his attempts to force through a summer move to Manchester City fell flat; Newcastle supporters will no doubt be fearing that he sparks back into life at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon.

With Kane struggling to shake off the attentions of the Hungary defence, it was left to some of England’s other players to press for a winner. Stones almost claimed his second goal of the corner as he glanced a header just wide from a corner shortly after the hour mark, while moments earlier, Sterling opted to cross from the right-hand side of the area when he should probably have pushed the ball out of his feet and gone for a shot.

Sterling’s decision-making continues to be the weakest part of his game, and the Manchester City forward should have done better when Kane released him into the area with 20 minutes left. He looked to be ideally placed to go round Gulacsi, but instead he opted to prod a first-time shot towards goal, enabling the Hungarian keeper to make a simple save.

That proved England’s best opportunity to claim a winner, although Ollie Watkins, who substituted the substitute when Abraham was forced to hobble off, threatened with virtually the last kick of the game, only for his half-volley to be saved.