Belfast Telegraph

'No better feeling': Northern Ireland's new centurion Ashley Hutton pays tribute to team-mates after dramatic draw in Wales

 

Goal touch: Ashley Hutton hit the net on her 100th outing
Goal touch: Ashley Hutton hit the net on her 100th outing

By Stuart McKinley

After winning 100 caps, Ashley Hutton knows what it takes for Northern Ireland teams to get results.

Guts and grit matter just as much as guile - and that is one of the reasons why she walked off the pitch at Rodney Parade on Tuesday night grinning from ear to ear.

Marking her century of caps by scoring Northern Ireland's last-gasp equaliser to get a 2-2 draw against Wales in their Women's Euro 2021 qualifier was a big factor too, but without everything that had gone into previous 93 minutes, her strike might not have had the same significance.

It was hard work by Megan Bell and Rachel Furness that led to the corner from which Simone Magill scored the opening goal and some great play by Furness, Freya Holdaway and Marissa Callaghan that carved out chances that could have brought about a second.

It wouldn't have been undeserved if Hutton had been celebrating a winning goal on her 100th appearance.

Twenty nine places separate Wales and Northern Ireland in the Fifa rankings. The performance from the girls in green, however, was another example of why such stats should be treated with a pinch of salt - if not contempt.

"Coming into the game we were definitely the underdog, but I think as a team we performed far better than Wales," said Hutton.

"Now we have to build on what we've learned this week and take it forward into the next game and collectively as a team just push on.

"Everyone put the work in, played for the Northern Ireland shirt, worked hard, were committed collectively as a team."

Kenny Shiels' team didn't just out-work the Welsh, they outplayed them for large parts of the game and showed just why they were happy to take the hit against Norway last Friday night, losing 6-0 and at times falling on their own sword in terms of when and where to play football, with a huge uplift in quality of performance in the opposition half.

The real measure, however, will come in November when the fixtures are reversed before clashes with Belarus and the Faroe Islands in the second half of the campaign.

Hutton left the pitch to an impromptu guard of honour from her teammates as they chanted her name.

The togetherness in the group was there for all to see and without that, too, the outcome of the game could have been different.

"We've come away with a 2-2 draw and to score a goal and get 100 caps, there's no better feeling," she said. "I'm excited for everyone and so proud of the team putting in a big performance and I'm glad to get my 100th cap.

"It's an honour. It's an honour just to get one cap never mind 100 caps. I have to thank a lot of people, Alfie Wylie gave me 98 of the caps and Kenny Shiels has given me the last two. It's an honour and a privilege. There's my family too and all the girls who have stuck by me as a team.

"Hopefully we get more girls with 100 caps. There are so many young ones coming through and it's just an honour to play for Northern Ireland."

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