Led­ley urges Welsh to box clever in derby fight to the death

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - PHIL BLANCHE

JOE LED­LEY has called for clear heads as Wales seek to se­cure a 2018 World Cup play-off spot amid the emo­tion of a derby game against the Repub­lic of Ire­land. Tom Lawrence’s su­perb sec­ond-half strike gave Wales a 1-0 win in Georgia on Fri­day night — their third suc­ces­sive vic­tory in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

Wales would still win Group D — and au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion to next sum­mer’s fi­nals in Rus­sia — if they over­come the Repub­lic to­mor­row and lead­ers Ser­bia fail to beat Georgia at home on the same evening.

But it is more likely that Wales and the Repub­lic will be con­test­ing sec­ond place in the group and the right to fea­ture in next month’s play-offs. With so much on the line, emo­tions will be run­ning high in Cardiff, es­pe­cially as mem­o­ries re­main fresh of their Dublin clash in March.

That game was shrouded in con­tro­versy when Repub­lic cap­tain Sea­mus Cole­man suf­fered a bro­ken leg in a chal­lenge with Neil Tay­lor, who was sent off in the goal­less draw.

“Ob­vi­ously we know it is a derby, but we must not get in­volved in any­thing,” Led­ley said. “We need to be clever and we have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, so it is down for us. Mon­day will be a bat­tle and they will fight hard, it is al­ways the same in these games.

“But it will be a great oc­ca­sion, and hope­fully we can do it with one last push.”

Wales head into the fi­nal qual­i­fier seek­ing a fourth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory for the first time in 36 years.

They hold a one-point ad­van­tage over Ire­land and a draw should be enough to claim a play-off place.

“Three wins and three clean sheets is very pos­i­tive,” Led­ley added.

“All that is all out of the win­dow on Mon­day, but I do feel this is the strong­est squad we have had.

“We see the young­sters com­ing through in train­ing and it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore they get a chance.”

Cap­tain Ash­ley Williams also promised Wales will take a pos­i­tive ap­proach as they at­tempt to close in on a first World Cup fi­nals ap­pear­ance since 1958. “In a game like this I don’t think we would ever say we would play for a draw,” Williams said.

“We will try to cre­ate and take the game to them, but we will also try to shut Ire­land out.

“As a de­fender we pride our­selves on clean sheets, so a 1-0 win was ex­tra nice.”

Williams also praised match­win­ner Lawrence, the Derby striker’s first in­ter­na­tional goal com­ing in his ninth ap­pear­ance.

It also ar­rived at a time when Wales were look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion with Real Madrid star Gareth Bale out in­jured.

“He has been around a while and we don’t look at him as a young lad any more,” Williams said of the 23-year-old Lawrence.

“I know as soon as he set him­self up he would score be­cause I have seen it so much in train­ing.

“We said we needed someone be­fore the game as Gaz was out, someone to cre­ate some­thing and score a goal and Tom showed his ma­tu­rity to do that.”

Wales’ Joe Led­ley warm­ing up ahead of Fri­day night’s win over Georgia

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