Lee Carsley felt England Under-21s’ 2-1 defeat by Croatia in their final warm-up match ahead of this summer’s European Championship was “a lesson we needed”.
The Young Lions were bidding to sign off for Georgia with a fourth friendly win out of four, having beaten Germany, Italy and, on Saturday, thumping France 4-0.
But boss Carsley changed all 10 outfield players for their last tune-up match and they had only a late Morgan Gibbs-White consolation from the penalty spot to show for a ragged display at Craven Cottage.
“I think it was a lesson we needed,” said Carsley. “We’ve tried to look at the four friendlies as a whole, tried to take away the results in terms of winning and losing.
“Obviously we try to win every game but it’s important that we are in a strong place in the summer.
“We made 10 changes from France, three debuts, and faced a different challenge in a low block which we haven’t faced for a while. All in all it’s been a really good camp.
“We gave away two poor goals tonight but we probably dominated the game and couldn’t take the chances we created.”
Croatia took the lead in the 34th minute after debutant Rico Lewis was booked for bringing down Lukas Kacavenda outside the box.
Martin Baturina stepped up to curl a superb 20-yard free-kick inside James Trafford’s near post.
Carsley made just one change at half-time, replacing Bolton’s on-loan Manchester City keeper Jack Trafford and handing West Brom’s Josh Griffiths a debut.
But Griffith’s first task was to face a penalty after Leicester full-back Luke Thomas clumsily brought down Matija Frigan in the area.
Dion Drena Beljo, who plays for Augsburg in the Bundesliga, coolly sent Griffiths the wrong way from the spot to double Croatia’s lead.
Griffiths did well to limit the damage with a smart point-blank save to deny Kacavenda and another fine stop to keep out Gabriel Vidovic.
For the hosts, Palmer and captain Jacob Ramsey both stung the hands of Kotarski, who then pulled off a stunning save to keep out a header from substitute Gibbs-White.
England finally got on the scoresheet four minutes from time when Kotarski tripped Gibbs-White in the box, the Nottingham Forest man tucking away the spot-kick.
But, with England senior boss Gareth Southgate watching from the stands, the hosts were unable to find an equaliser on a frustrating night in west London.