17/05/1975 Belfast England 0-0
Pat Jennings, Pat Rice, Liam O’Kane, Allan Hunter, Chris Nicholl, Dave Clements, Bryan Hamilton (Tom Finney), Martin O’Neill, Derek Spence, Sammy McIlroy, Tommy Jackson
England had, with a degree of justification, used the atrocious state of the Limassol pitch as an excuse for their poor performance in Cyprus. In Belfast, however, they were presented with a beautiful, lush green pitch, and played just as badly. Thus, after eleven wins in their last twelve matches against Northern Ireland, they were held to a disappointing draw, and had no excuses. Indeed, they could have lost; perhaps it was only the psychological barrier of not having beaten England in Belfast since 1927 that did for the Irish. They had already beaten Sweden (away) and Yugoslavia this season, and they should have added England to the list.
Northern Ireland, having not played for a few weeks, took a while to find their feet. The English midfield was again uninspiring, with Bell, Ball and Viljoen between them unable to find enough variety in their approach. The one positive was that, in six games since Don Revie became manager, England had still not conceded a single goal (equalling the record set in 1966; it has been equalled, but not beaten, since). The Irish had chances to end the record here, though.
The hosts really began to turn the screw in the period immediately after half-time. Spence, from the English third division, was at the heart of things, twice setting up McIlroy for close-range chances that were squandered, and twice heading narrowly wide himself. A strong tackle by Tueart brought a premature end to Hamilton’s afternoon, and the Irish certainly missed him. England had gone from insipid to sublime in a matter of days many times before; they would need to do the same again now.