Wales 1 Belarus 0

photo (56)The only highlight so far of the Welsh international football season came in the 80th minute of this match.

Chelsea’s Helen Ward picked up a clearance on the right, beat two defenders and cracked home the winner from ten yards into the top left corner to seal the win.

It was a long time coming but the centre forward ensured the right outcome.

Up to that point it looked as though the national women’s team were out to prove they could be as exasperating as the men’s, by not killing off sides while exerting dominance.

They pinned the East Europeans in their own half for almost the whole of the first period and suffered the loss of centre-half Kylie Davies after 44 minutes to a terrible challenge from burly Bobruichanka bruiser Svetlana Astashova. The ref didn’t see it so no booking was dished out.

Then Belarus – 6-0 losers to England last week – perked up as if they realised they weren’t heading for another hiding and showed some appetite for the match.

Wales warm up
Wales warm up

Two free-kicks outside the box looked promising – and Welsh keeper Nicola Davies looked dimunitive and vulnerable in the goal behind the wall.

But workhorse Ward, who was always full of running, made the difference against tired legs at the end.

Others who caught the eye were national skipper Cardiff-born Jessica Fishlock, who plays for Seattle in the US.

She really is an outstanding player – skilful, two yards quicker than most opponents and gutsy.

Watford’s Sarah Wiltshire was tricky and Chelsea – how often do we have three Chelsea players in a Wales team? – right back Helen Bleazard was heftily robust. And rarely will Chelsea players feature in the same squad as someone from Gwent side Pilcs FC (Amy Thrupp).

Tactically, the Welsh welter of set-pieces was not effective – corners and free-kick delivery was average at best. Wales looked at their best when Wiltshire and Natasha Harding were haring it down the flanks.

At times Wales dished out the fouls almost as effectively as the Belarussians who were often cynical but mainly incompetent.

Several should have been booked by the extremely lenient referee and the fearsome Astashova was wisely subbed after 65 minutes, which was how long it took her to get booked. She had a Mick Harford menace about her which I’ve rarely seen since his heyday in the Eighties.

Full marks to the under-fire FAW for fixing the game up at the CCS – the 2011 qualifiers were at Haverfordwest, Newtown, Llanelli and Broughton.

It added a bit of spark, a bit of class to the game. The crowd of 820 wasn’t bad. Better and clearer public announcements of who the players are might help the crowd work out who’s who.

The teamsheet was read out twice but at one heck of lick and you had to strain to hear it. The attempts at reading the Belarussian names out were comically inept.

The Welsh teamsheet should also have been displayed on the TV screens – these things are obvious if you want to build recognition of the players. And it’s not hard to put the players’ names on the back of their shirts, I understand.

The impressive Fishlock was this week interviewed by and is at @Jessfishlock on Twitter. Her interview is here

And let’s hope Wales can do better than last time round in the bid to reach Canada for the 2015 finals.

The 2011 campaign was a mixed bag, with games played in 2009 and 2010. Wales finished fourth out of five – winning 3-2 in Belgium and 2-0 in Llanelli against the Czechs.

Two bizarre results featured. After losing 2-1 in Baku against Azerbaijan, we then whupped the same opposition 15-0 in the return at Newtown. The visitors also lost 17-0 to Sweden in that campaign.

Helen Ward was given a bouquet to mark her 50th game for Wales
Helen Ward was given a bouquet to mark her 50th game for Wales

Wales now go to Millwall on October 26 to play England.

Tricky away trips to Montenegro (November) and Turkey (April) follow before the next home match against Ukraine on April 9.

After the men’s deathless draw with the Irish and the Macedonian fiasco, it was nice to come away from a Wales game with a warm glow, a faint feeling of pride and knowing you’ve been well entertained.

In Wales, that doesn’t happen too often!

Wales: N Davies (Doncaster); Bleazard (Chelsea), Cousins (Cardiff), Price (Cardiff), K Davies (Chelsea); Ladd (Coventry), Harding (Bristol), Fishlock (Seattle), Ward (Chelsea), Wiltshire (Watford), Ingle (Chelsea). Subs – James for K Davies, Green for Ladd, Harding came off but the mangled announcement made too difficult to work out who came on in her stead.


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