LEIGHTON BAINES admits England’s stuttering start to their qualifying campaign has increased the pressure on their attempts to reach next year’s World Cup finals.
Roy Hodgson’s side face Group H minnows San Marino on Friday before heading to Podgorica for a meeting with leaders Montenegro on Tuesday.
Draws at home to Ukraine and away at Poland in the first four games have left England in second place and outside the sole automatic qualification berth.
And Baines admits England need to comprehensively dismiss San Marino to build confidence as they aim to ensure they regain group ascendancy ahead of the summer break.
“The first game especially is a game everyone expects us to win, it’s one we must win,” said the Everton left-back.
“You know the job in front of you with the onus on you to go out and get a goal as early as possible and get the game won.
“Sometimes it is not as easy as you’d like it to be when they camp so many men behind the ball.
“We’ve got a tougher game after that, one that we know is going to be really difficult but one we know we have to try to win because we want to finish this season in terms of the qualifying campaign on a high.
“The two draws put us under more pressure to go and win that game but we feel the worst case is we wouldn’t want to lose that game.
“If we weren’t to win it wouldn’t be over but we want to put ourselves in a strong position to be able to pick it up again next season.”
England are without injured midfielder Jack Wilshere and Baines admits that is a blow for the squad.
“It’s a very big loss,” he added. “He is a top player and is important to us and Arsenal and he’ll be missed by both of us.
“His style of play you could watch all day but we have a lot of players in the squad and I am sure we will be able to manage.”
Baines, meanwhile, has saluted the performance of stand-in goalkeeper Jan Mucha during Saturday’s 2-0 win over champions Manchester City.
Mucha, making only his second league appearance deputising for Tim Howard, made a clutch of fine saves as Everton kept only their fifth Premier League clean sheet of the season.
“It’s never easy coming in when you have been out for such a long time,” said Baines. “I’m sure it has been difficult for Jan, but he hasn’t shown that.
“He’s done really well for us and he kept us in the game. At 1-0 he made some great saves and on another day they could have equalised.
“He did well coming out, punching balls clear and taking a bit of the pressure off us.
“It was great to get the clean sheet as well. We haven’t had as many as we would have liked, so I’m sure Jan will be delighted.”