Both strikers scored but they did not develop real understanding despite victory over Montenegro in their World Cup qualifier
The good news for England is that wingers are back in fashion. Andros Townsend and Danny Welbeck were among the most impressive performers against Montenegro. Both were involved in Wayne Rooney's opener at the start of the second half and Townsend even claimed his first senior international goal to keep Roy Hodgson's players on course for World Cup qualification.
The slightly less exciting news is that the strikers between the wide players did not hit it off quite so well. There appears to be no reason why Rooney and Daniel Sturridge should not form an effective attacking partnership in time, but despite both of them scoring at Wembley, they struggled to gel.
At least England won, which is something they have not managed to do in three previous games against Montenegro. However the debate over what constitutes their most potent attacking formation can be left for another day. Suffice to say that despite a starting line-up that by Hodgson's standards bordered on the adventurous, Montenegro were not in danger of being overwhelmed, at least in the first half.
England still look like a side more likely to achieve more draws than wins.
Caution is normally Hodgson's watchword yet James Milner was left on the bench in favour of a first start for Townsend, and Sturridge paired with Rooney up front, an attacking partnership with all of 30 minutes experience of playing together. You could see where Hodgson was coming from, however. England needed their most experienced players, which is why Jack Wilshere found himself squeezed out by the Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard axis, and they needed a win. With the exception of Townsend the entire forward division had goals in the bank for England, Sturridge is bang in form and he and Rooney alone have shared close to 50 goals over the last 12 months.
"All the boxes are ticked," Gerrard said beforehand, offering the sort of hostage to fortune that makes experienced England followers cringe. "The potential is frightening because they can both create and they can both score."
Townsend showed up brightly in the early exchanges, not always keeping hold of the ball but showing a refreshing willingness to take on opponents and occasionally beat them. With the Spurs winger a live wire on the right and Leighton Baines eagerly overlapping Welbeck on the left, England could not be accused of opening up cagily. They would, however, have left themselves open to a counter attack had Montenegro shown any inclination to cross the halfway line. With one team going forward with as much determination as the other was staying back, you could frequently find 21 players in the same half of the field. Midway through the first half, in the move which led to Gerrard firing over the crossbar from the edge of the area, Montenegro thought they had cleared the ball at least twice, only to find spare England forwards cluttering up parts of the pitch they imagined might be empty.
Pressure is of limited value without goals to show for it though, and when Stevan Jovetic got behind the England defence just a couple of times to bring Joe Hart racing out of his area, it was a reminder not only that Montenegro had a front-runner who could score, but that the Rooney-Sturridge partnership was yet to click. By the half-hour stage it was faintly worrying that neither had had an effort on target, even if Welbeck had forced a save from Vukasin Poleksic with a near post shot from a tight angle.
Worse, when Townsend and Rooney linked down the right for the former to force a Poleksic save just before the interval, Rooney picked up the rebound but shot into the side netting from a near impossible angle with Sturridge ideally positioned for a cut back to the middle.
There was no sign of instant chemistry and Sturridge, left, did not look his usual, relaxed self. When the ball did come through to him close to goal at the end of the first half he shot wildly high, and when a Rooney pass finally picked him out on the six-yard line seconds later he did not react quickly enough to prevent a defender getting a crucial foot in.
Clearly not all the boxes were ticked after all. Gerrard himself tested the Montenegrin goalkeeper at least as often as the new England strike partnership in the first half, shooting more in hope than expectation from positions around the edge of the box. England have seen that sort of thing before and the returns are generally limited unless they happen to be playing Moldova. While nil apiece might have been acceptable in Kiev in the last match, a scoreless first half without seriously troubling the Montenegro defence was not what Hodgson was hoping for here, especially after thanking the crowd for their support and imploring the home fans to make a special effort in the last two games.
Rooney came to the rescue early in the second half, and a clever back heel from Sturridge helped set up the comedy own goal that ultimately allowed England to breathe more easily, so in the end the new front two were both influential. Just not a true partnership, yet.