LONDON • Gareth Southgate was not going to be the first manager to lead England to four straight defeats in 146 years of international football.
But that ignominy looked to be a real possibility going into half-time on Tuesday with England and Switzerland level in their friendly, and the opposition having the better of chances, notably through Xherdan Shaqiri, who hit the outside of the post from inside the box.
However, a rollicking from Southgate with "stern words" exchanged in the dressing room did the trick as England came out fired up after the break to beat the Swiss 1-0 at Leicester City's King Power Stadium.
Centre-back Harry Maguire admitted afterwards that things had gotten a bit fiery as the players held an inquest, but the "hairdryer treatment" was a necessary evil which worked.
"Definitely a few words spoken between the boys. All of us weren't happy with the performance at half-time, gave them (the Swiss) a little bit too much respect with the ball," he told reporters.
"The pressing was a bit bits and bobs, people going and people staying. The gaffer had stern words with us and the second half was much better."
Danny Rose concurred in an interview with Sky Sports that the row had galvanised the Three Lions.
"We could have been two or three-nil down at half-time," said left-back Rose. "It's great we can all shout at each other and tell each other to improve like we did."
Definitely a few words spoken between the boys. All of us weren't happy with the performance at half-time... The gaffer had stern words with us and the second half was much better.
HARRY MAGUIRE, England centre-back, on how things were heated up in the dressing room at the interval.
Southgate had insisted after being outplayed for the majority of their 2-1 Nations League opening defeat by Spain that England would continue to play out from the back under pressure.
Yet it nearly cost the hosts the opening goal twice in a matter of seconds inside the first 10 minutes.
Jack Butland misplaced a pass which rolled dangerously close to his own goal and, when the goalkeeper's next clearance to James Tarkowski was cut out by the Swiss high press, Shaqiri struck the post with his weaker right foot.
While Southgate has been vocal in the last few days over England's failure to produce midfielders of the calibre that Spain possess, his side, containing nine changes from the weekend, was struggling even to cope with the the opposition's passing and movement as the visitors enjoyed nearly 65 per cent possession before the break.
A more positive start to the second period for the hosts was rewarded with the only goal on 54 minutes when Kyle Walker's hanging cross to the back post was swept home by Marcus Rashford for his fifth international goal.
The importance of holding on for a morale-boosting win for Southgate was shown as he introduced a host of regular starters, including captain Harry Kane for the final quarter, while Ben Chilwell made his international debut off the bench to loud applause from the fans at his club ground.
With a daunting double-header away at Croatia and Spain in the Nations League next month, Southgate is under no illusions about the task ahead, but he will continue to demand more despite the limitations of his squad.
"For ourselves, we are a smaller pool of players (compared to France), but we want an environment that's demanding. And that's the only way we can keep raising the standard," he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS