Ashley Hutton marks 100th cap with last gasp equaliser for Northern Ireland
Ashley Hutton marked her 100th cap in style with a last-gasp equaliser to give Northern Ireland their first points of the Women’s Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.
The Linfield Ladies defender headed home from close range in the 94th minute to give her team a 2-2 draw against Wales in Newport.
A point was the least that Northern Ireland deserved after a performance full of character after Friday’s night’s 6-0 defeat to Norway.
Northern Ireland were on the front foot from early in the game. Indeed as early as the third minute Sarah McFadden’s flick-on sent Lauren Wade racing down the left and she cut into force a save from Welsh goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan.
Demi Vance’s free kick five minutes later caused all sorts of panic in the Wales defence and Gemma Evans was relieved to see the ball go out for a goal kick after her attempted clearance hit Hutton.
Megan Bell and Rachel Furness showed great hunger to force a corner which led to Northern Ireland taking the lead with only 10 minutes on the clock.
Bell sent the ball into the box, McFadden headed it goalwards and Simone Magill nodded it across O’Sullivan and into the net to give the girls in green a deserved lead.
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It was almost 2-0 on 20 minutes. Furness collected the ball in midfield and with little else on she tried her luck from all of 35 yards, with the goalkeeper only got hold of at the third attempt.
Two minutes later, however, Wales were level.
Angharad James stole possession on the edge of the box and exchanged passes with Kayleigh Green. Her shot clipped Emma Jones, leaving Northern Ireland goalkeeper Emma Higgins wrong-footed as the ball hit the net.
Great build-up play almost led to Northern Ireland regaining the lead nine minutes after half time.
Freya Holdaway sent Wade racing down the left wing, she delivered a great low cross and Vance, who had made a darting run from the right, only managed to put the ball over the bar with her weaker right foot.
They were made to rue that missed chance when Wales went in front on 69 minutes.
Rhiannon Roberts latched on to a loose pass on the right and delivered a cross right into the Northern Ireland goalmouth where Green out-jumped Rachel Newborough to head home.
Northern Ireland were centimetres away from grabbing a late equaliser which their performance would have deserved. Substitute Marissa Callaghan neat flick to Magill was returned to her and she sent a shot from 25 yards against the crossbar with O’Sullivan well beaten. Magill was unable to get a good enough contact on the rebound to take the ball into the net.
Northern Ireland had one last roll of the dice deep in injury time when a free kick was awarded on the left wing.
McFadden’s deadly delivery had Wales goalkeeper O’Sullivan struggling as she could only palm the ball onto the bar and Hutton was perfectly placed to head home the rebound and grab a point.
WALES: O’Sullivan, Dykes, Evans, Ingle, Roberts, Hughes, E Jones (Wynne, 66 mins), James, K Green, Harding, Ladd. Subs: Skinner, Clark, Ward, J Green, Estcourt, Nolan, Woodham, Filbey, C Jones, Powell.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Higgins, Newborough (McCarron, 88 mins), Nelson, Hutton, Holdaway (McKenna, 56 mins), Vance, McFadden, Furness, Bell (Callaghan, 60 mins), Wade, Magill. Subs: Burns, Flaherty, Johnson, Montgomery, Holloway, White.
Referee: Ainara Andrea Acevedo Dudley (Spain)
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