Wales 1-1 Northern Ireland: Church answers Welsh prayers with late equaliser

Craig Cathcart's strike on the hour was cancelled out in the final minute of the 90 as the hosts salvaged a draw.

Wales 1-1 Northern Ireland: Church answers Welsh prayers with late equaliser
Craig Cathcart celebrates his match-winning strike. (Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters)
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Northern Ireland
Wales: (4-2-3-1): Hennessy (D. Ward 46'); Gunter, Chester, A. Williams, Matthews; Ledley (Crofts 46'), Vaughan (Allen 71'); Cotterill, Lawrence (J. Williams 62'), G. Williams (Isgrove 62'); Vokes (Church 76').
Northern Ireland: (3-2-3-2): McGovern; Cathcart, McAuley, Evans; Norwood, Davis; McLaughlin, McNair, Dallas (Ferguson 90'); Lafferty, Washington (J. Ward 46').
SCORE: 0-1, Cathcart 60'. 1-1, Church (pen) 90'.

Northern Ireland and Wales battled to a 1-1 draw on Thursday evening, one which had a real 'friendly' feel to it.

With more substitutions than chances, it was a scrappy and cagey encounter as Craig Cathcart's clinical strike on the hour was cancelled out by Simon Church's last minute penalty.

Admittedly, both sides were missing key men as fringe players were given chances to impress ahead of the Euros this summer, and that fact generally summed up a fairly poor 90 minutes of football.

Lack of quality on show

Everyone on the pitch had a point to prove on Thursday, while Wales in particular were looking to show that they are more than just Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

All were looking to strengthen their bid for a spot on the plane to France, but this made it more of a scrappy affair than one of high quality between the two British nations. 

Northern Ireland had more of the ball, but Wales did more with it - though that's a generous statement given that 'more' only consisted of George Williams curling the ball wide before David Cotterill's free-kick brought a smart save out of Michael McGovern.

George Williams continued to be the closest thing the game had to a creative spark as his shot was headed clear by Cathcart, but the match was a very cagey one overall and lacked the entertainment to live up to it's big battle of Britain billing.

Visitors snatch the lead

Half time changes were made by both, and it was the introduction of Jamie Ward for the visitors that almost paid off within five minutes of the restart as he purged through Wales' back line.

He was tackled once he got into the box, but Kyle Lafferty latched onto the loose ball - only to scuff his shot into the arms of another sub, Danny Ward, who was making his senior debut in the Welsh goal.

The young Liverpool stopper would be beaten on his day to remember though, with the hosts failing to clear a corner effectively and being punished as a result. The ball fell to Cathcart in the area and he spun and struck it into the bottom corner like an out-and-out number nine, not a centre-half, to break the deadlock on the hour.

Cathcart opened the scoring on the hour, but saw it cancelled out late on. (Photo: Belfast Telegraph)
Cathcart opened the scoring on the hour, but saw it cancelled out late on. (Photo: Belfast Telegraph)

Wales salvage a draw from the spot

Wales struggled to respond to this - though that could have something to do with the mass changes from the bench throughout the second half.

The ball almost broke perfectly for Sam Vokes before he was subbed off, but instead McGovern was first to it as he sprung off his line to deal with the threat.

A splendid cross by Jonny Williams as we neared the 80 minute mark posed significant danger too, but Lloyd Isgrove was beaten to it by his marker as Northern Ireland stood firm.

Church was flagged offside as he tried to direct a deflected shot goalwards, but his big chance came from the spot after he was brought down by Gareth McAuley in the final minute of the 90. 

The man on loan at Aberdeen didn't hesitate in taking the opportunity either, ensuring Wales' final game in front of their home fans before the Euros didn't end in a disappointing defeat.