Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley called up to England squad

• Youngsters in for matches against Moldova and Ukraine
• Roy Hodgson admits qualifying is tighter than he would like

Roy Hodgson has admitted to becoming increasingly concerned about England's position in their World Cup qualifying programme as he prepares to go into the next round of fixtures with Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend added to the squad and with some concerns about the goalkeeper Joe Hart's confidence.

England are two points behind Montenegro in a group in which only the winners qualify automatically. Hodgson's men have a game in hand on Montenegro, but the same applies to Ukraine, who still have to play San Marino twice and are only a point behind England.

Hodgson's primary concern ahead of England's games against Moldova on Friday week, followed by the key encounter with Ukraine in Kiev four days later, is the erratic form of Hart, both for his country and Manchester City. The England manager offered Hart his backing but admitted that his goalkeeper needed "to get his confidence restored". England finish the group with home games against Montenegro and Poland in October and Hodgson is acutely aware his team need to go into those fixtures in a strong frame of mind.

"People were initially suggesting it was just for us to get above Montenegro," he said. "Now it's even tighter. We know now it's Montenegro, Ukraine and England, and also that Poland aren't out of it yet because if they get results against Montenegro and Ukraine then it gets even tighter still.

"It's going to be a tight affair, but it's four games, four performances and hopefully four matches to win. You don't change that dynamic. No end of speculating about what happens if this or that result happens changes the fact that the best way for us to ensure qualification is to play well in four games and get four good results."

Hart's mistake in England's 3-2 defeat of Scotland, letting James Morrison's shot go through his arms, was compounded by his error in Cardiff at the weekend. "I would still defend him," Hodgson said. "It would take more than a couple of games before we lost faith in a guy who has been No1 over a long period. Now I'm hoping Joe will use the England time to get his confidence restored. He will be working with people who believe in him. Wayne Rooney was happy to be part of the Scotland game to use that time to dispel a few doubts about him. I can only hope Joe will do the same.

"When I took the job on, I thought I had a top-class goalkeeper to work with and, 16 months later, I still think I've got a top-class goalkeeper to work with. He is a fine keeper and he will have two fantastic opportunities, barring injuries, to play against Moldova and Ukraine."

Barkley has been called up after his impressive start to the season for Everton, with his club manager, Roberto Martínez, greeting the news by likening the 19-year-old to a young Michael Ballack. "I look at Ross, and you tell me what weakness he has," Martínez said. "He hasn't got one. He takes in information, which for a young lad is incredible, he can use both feet, he can switch the play, he has a range of passing, he can receive the ball in any area, he has a great shot and incredible energy.

"He reminds me of Michael Ballack. When Ballack was younger, nobody knew what his best position was. Could he be a sitting midfielder, an attacking midfielder, or play up front? Ross is that impressive."

Townsend has been brought in because of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's injury, with Hodgson taking in Tottenham Hotspur's match against Swansea on Sunday specifically to see him play. Hodgson has also recalled Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, while Wilfried Zaha of Manchester United drops back to the Under-21s.

"I want to emphasise one thing," Hodgson said. "I have said to Gareth Southgate [the Under-21 manager] that these players are probably going to be with the first-team squad both against Moldova and the Ukraine but, if for some reason after working with them, I've thought, 'No, you've still got a way to go, you're not going to be much in my thoughts', I will send them back to the Under-21s.

"They are all very young. Barkley is only 19 and Sterling is only 20. I just think it's important that players who have done extremely well get the recognition they deserve and I will be interested to see how they shape up."

Hodgson has also recalled Daniel Sturridge into his 27-man squad while Fraser Forster is selected, ahead of Jack Butland, to be back-up for Hart and John Ruddy, with Ben Foster out for up to 12 weeks with a stressfracture of a bone in his right foot. Jonjo Shelvey's form for Swansea had also brought him close to a call-up, according to the England manager.

England squad Hart (Man City), Forster (Celtic), Ruddy (Norwich); Baines (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea), Cole (Chelsea), Jagielka (Everton), Johnson (Liverpool), Jones (Man Utd), Smalling (Man Utd), Walker (Tottenham); Barkley (Everton), Carrick (Man Utd), Cleverley (Man Utd), Gerrard (Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), Milner (Man City), Sterling (Liverpool), Townsend (Tottenham), Walcott (Arsenal), Wilshere (Arsenal), Young (Man Utd); Defoe (Tottenham), Lambert (Southampton), Rooney (Man Utd), Sturridge (Liverpool), Welbeck (Man Utd).

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