England maintained their 100 per cent record under coach Steve McClaren by making it three wins in three internationals, though they were made to work hard for the three points as Peter Crouch's goal saw off F.Y.R. Macedonia in a UEFA EURO 2008™ Group E qualifier in Skopje.
In a low-key first half, England could not find the slick rhythm and high tempo they had displayed in their previous two outings, as the Macedonians more than held their own. Crouch drew a fingertip save from Jane Nikolovski and strike partner Jermain Defoe went close with an overhead kick from Phil Neville's long throw, but otherwise England looked less than threatening. F.Y.R. Macedonia kept the home fans excited with a spell of pressure towards the end of the opening period, when England also had their best chance as Frank Lampard brought Nikolovski into action with a bobbling left-footed drive.
England were livelier after the break and it took only a minute for them to move in front as Lampard's persistence produced a cross for Crouch to claim his eleventh international goal, the Liverpool FC forward hooking a volley in off the underside of the bar. The match officials saw the ball had clearly crossed the line but McClaren missed it, as he was yet to emerge from the dressing room. Robert Petrov thought he had equalised in the 52nd minute but his cross-cum-shot from the left was still in play when England keeper Paul Robinson caught it on his goalline.
Crouch was close to adding to his tally with a flashing effort that whistled past Nikolovski's right-hand post, while Goran Pandev made Robinson dive low to smother his attempt from outside the box. Artim Sakiri had the home supporters on their feet again when he went agonisingly close with a raking left-footer with 12 minutes remaining, but England held on despite an incredible late scare when Ashley Cole cleared off the line after McClaren's men had got into a desperate tangle at the back.