09/04/1927 Cardiff Wales 2-2 Harold Johnston (2)
Elisha Scott, Andy McCluggage, Billy McConnell, Sam Irving, Tom Sloan, Mick O’Brien, Andy Bothwell, Bobby Irvine, Harold Johnston, Billy Gillespie, Harold McCaw
The final match of the 1926-27 British Home Championship was a dead rubber after England and Scotland had already been declared joint winners of the tournament. With pride to play for and the possibility of avoiding the wooden spoon there was however, some merit for both sides to put in good performances.
Ireland had begun the series well with a 3-3 draw at Anfield against England while Wales lost 3-0 to Scotland at Ibrox Park. A credible 3-3 draw at home to England brought some optimism for the Welsh while Ireland a week later lost at home to Scotland 2-0. In the final round of matches England defeated Scotland 2-1 at Hampden Park to take a share of the title while the match between Wales and Ireland was the final game of the tournament in Cardiff.
According to the Glasgow Herald match report “a draw was a fitting result of a game which did not arouse much enthusiasm among the spectators”, as “the defences held the upper hand, and for long periods the play lacked distinction”.
Ireland showed the greater forward presence with good positional play but their finishing was lacking quality, however, the teams overall ball control was superior to that of the Welsh players.
Ireland’s centre-forward for this match was Harold Johnston (Portadown). Harry as he was better known was winning his first senior cap as a replacement for Hugh Davey (Reading). Johnston scored both of Ireland’s goals during the last 15 minutes of the match but was never selected to represent the national side again! On both occasions Welsh goalkeeper Len Evans (Aberdare Athletic) hesitated when leaving his area and was caught in two minds over whether to come and collect or stay in goal.
Wales’ stand out player was centre-half Thomas Griffiths (Everton) who headed clear many an Irish cross but was also capable of helping out in any Welsh attack.
Ireland began the match the better side but Wales turned defence into attack and Elisha Scott (Liverpool) had to tip a shot by Len Davies (Cardiff City) over his crossbar, but overall Ireland the better of the opening exchanges, “and but for weakness in shooting would have taken the lead.”
It was Wales who opened the scoring after 20 minutes of play when a shot by Rees Williams (Sheffield Wednesday) flew past the hapless Scott. Wales invigorated by the goal went on the offensive, “their long passing movements frequently having the Irish defence in difficulties.” On one occasion Andy McCluggage (Burnley) cleared the ball almost off the Irish goal line after the Welsh forward lined seemed certain to score.
Ireland did have their own chances but again their shooting was insufficient to trouble the Welsh goalkeeper. They would soon regret the missed chances when Wales scored their second goal of the game with14 minutes of the first half remaining. Williams tricked Billy McConnell (Reading) and sent in a cross which McCluggage failed to clear allowing the onrushing William to take possession of the leather and shoot passed Scott.
For the remaining minutes of the first half, Ireland began to make inroads against the Welsh defence. One shot from Billy Gillespie (Sheffield United) only just missed the crossbar on its way out of play, while three corners in quick succession failed to produce a goal.
The half-time whistle blew with the score Wales 2 – 0 Ireland
Ireland began the second half the stronger of the two teams with Johnston bringing out a good save from Evans. Welsh attacks were few and far between which presented Ireland with good chances to score. Goalkeeper Evans was found out of position once more and Gillespie should have scored but his tame shot from 2 yards out was cleared by Fred Krenor (Cardiff City).
With 75 minutes played in the game Ireland were still two goals down and not looking likely to capitalise on their chances. Debutant Johnston however, was able to dribble past Jones to allow a shot on goal which brought Ireland’s first goal.
Ireland had the incentive to score an equaliser but good defensive duties from the Welsh half-backs most notably Griffiths who “played splendidly in defence”. Ireland kept the momentum as Wales tried to hang on for the win but the Welsh regard was finally broken with only 2 minutes left. Mick O’Brien (Derby County) made a forward pass to Johnston who ran towards goal. Welsh goalkeeper Evans ran out to narrow the angle but Johnston was able to shoot past the goalkeeper and bring a deserved equalizing goal for Ireland.