It might not have been the dawn of a bright new successful era for the Welsh International team, but at least they got the job done by beating a much weakened Northern Ireland side by 2-0 in a near deserted Aviva Stadium, Dublin in last night’s Carling Nation’s Cup clash. After six consecutive defeats, any victory has to be welcome and to do so with a couple of fine goals and a degree of control will have gone some way towards restoring confidence to what is still a young side as well as easing some of the pressure that was already beginning to grow on Gary Speed.
The Welsh manager was not a wholly satisfied man though – within seconds of us going 2-0 up, you could hear his voice echoing around the ground. “Don’t get sloppy, don’t get sloppy” he shouted, but that’s exactly what his side did in the last quarter of the game as their performance fell away. It was hard to disagree also with Speed’s after match verdict that, given the amount of possession they enjoyed, Wales really should have come up with more in terms of efforts at goal. That said, the way Aaron Ramsey, David Vaughan and the fit again Jack Collison combined in midfield certainly suggested that, when the likes of Gareth Bale, Joe Ledley, Andrew Crofts and Joe Allen return (Andy King shouldn’t be forgotten either), we should have enough to be competitive against most sides in the middle of the park.
In other areas of the park, the outlook does not look so bright. While it was good to see Craig Bellamy giving his all in a pretty meaningless game, the match served as a reminder that the time when he is not going to be there for his country is getting nearer and it has to be said that the striking cupboard is looking pretty bare without him. Yes, Earnie scored another good goal and he does seem to be playing better lately, but one of the young strikers who looked so promising two or three years ago needs to kick on because there is a great opportunity for them currently. Unfortunately, there has been very little seen from Ched Evans, Simon Church and Sam Vokes lately to suggest this is going to happen.
The threat posed by a Northern Ireland outfit that probably contained no more than three of their strongest team and had an attack being led by Warren Feeney meant that it was not an evening on which to draw too many conclusions regarding our defenders, but Neil Taylor combined well with Bellamy in the first half – given City’s problems at left back this season, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a combination we might have been able to see in a City shirt if the club had approached their recruitment of new players this season differently.