Gareth Southgate admitted his England side were not up to scratch after beating Malta in their penultimate Euro 2024 qualifier.
The Three Lions were gifted an early lead thanks to an own goal from Enrico Pepe, but failed to have a shot on target in the opening hour of the game at Wembley.
Harry Kane put the hosts 2-0 up in the 75th minute, while Declan Rice had a goal ruled out for offside shortly thereafter as the contest ended 2-0.
“We didn’t hit the heights we have done this calendar year,” Southgate told BBC Radio 5 Live after the final whistle.
“If you don’t start games well it’s very difficult to pick it up and we didn’t. We know the level we’ve got should be better, can be better.
“Those games that you know you can win at a canter, the number of games these players are playing, it’s almost a self-regulation.
“So not enough quality on the ball, and not enough chances created, but I have been a player and I know exactly how those games feel.
“Clearly it’s possible we could have had three or four with the decisions as well, but we didn’t create enough clear chances to deserve that anyway.”
Southgate tried to assuage concerns over the team’s form and picked out a few positives from the victory.
“We’ve asked people to fill roles that aren’t their usual position, like Fikayo [Tomori], and it’s not easy for him to build down that side,” the England boss explained.
“We’ve got problems with availability in that area [left-back] and you are trying to give some players a rest. We have a lot of players that weren’t in there.
“I thought Trent [Alexander-Arnold], Phil [Foden] and Marc Guehi were good and Cole Palmer coming on for his debut had a good impact. There are positives, but we know we were not where we want to be and can be.”