MARK Hughes may have been one of Europe's top scorers while he was at the height of his career, but he turning the Wales into a tight, defensive unit.

Hughes was electric around the box during his Manchester United and Barcelona days, but he is ensuring no opposition striker gets the freedom he would have thrived on. "It is so important to be tight at this level," said Hughes after last night's 0-0 Millennium Stadium draw with the Czech Republic.

"We work very hard and are very difficult to beat. If you haven't got a platform, you can very easily go behind in games because of the quality of the opposition. "We let them try and break us down and at times the opposition can get frustrated and we can exploit that.

"Even if we're not playing particularly well or we're not attacking as much as we want, we have still got a defensive base to keep ourselves in the game - and that is important at this level.

"If we keep that discipline in defence we will always have opportunities at the other end. "That is the base of most of the work I have been doing in the last couple of years and it looks like I'm getting the benefits now. We don't accept that we are going to get beaten." The record of two defeats in their last nine outings proves Hughes' point. He was equally delighted with the contribution of the fringe players.

"We got a result from a top European side when of a lot of our senior players were missing," said Hughes, who was without Craig Bellamy, Ryan Giggs, Mark Pembridge and skipper Gary Speed.

"But the result is credit to the lads the way they played. It was a learning curve for some of them and I think they will become better players for that - and we have come out with a positive result.

"I have learnt a few things about some my players." Hughes particularly praised the performances of debut makers Daniel Gabbidon and Jason Koumas and his two 'keepers Darren Ward and Danny Coyne, who played 45 minutes each.

Speaking about the forthcoming Euro 2004 qualification matches, Hughes added: "Our confidence is growing and if everyone is available we'll be a very good side and be a match for anybody."

Newport-born Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Nathan Blake and Leicester City midfielder Robbie Savage, who had an excellent game, both left the field after knocks on their shin.

"They'll be sore, but okay to play on the weekend," said Hughes.