Cole­man ex­pect­ing nee­dle in show­down

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - THE TITLE - By Lau­rie Whitwell

CHRIS COLE­MAN ex­pects a ‘hell of a game’ when Ire­land visit Cardiff for a World Cup qual­i­fy­ing show­down that Gareth Bale will watch from the stands.

De­spite be­ing out in­jured, the Real Madrid star wanted to sup­port his Wales team­mates on a night when win­ner takes all.

Cole­man is aware the match will carry even greater nee­dle af­ter Sea­mus Cole­man’s leg break in the re­verse fix­ture, but in­sisted that in­ci­dent in Dublin would not in­hibit the Welsh ap­proach on home turf.

Cole­man said Neil Tay­lor’s mist­imed tackle won’t be men­tioned in his dress­ing-room, although the de­fender is likely to be cast as the vil­lain by trav­el­ling Ire­land fans.

Martin O’Neill’s side are also tar­get­ing pas­sage to Rus­sia next year and that dy­namic alone is enough for Cole­man to ac­knowl­edge the size of the match.

‘It is all or noth­ing for both teams,’ said Cole­man. ‘So even with­out the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent in Dublin with Tayls and Sea­mus, this was al­ways go­ing to be a game where there will be two teams lock­ing horns.

‘There will be lots of con­tact in the game, it will be phys­i­cal, good play­ers there as well. I think there will be chances ei­ther end and there won’t be much in it.

‘Af­ter the game in Dublin, Tayls was ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated, as we all were. Sea­mus is such a good player and you never want to see that hap­pen. But there won’t be any men­tion of the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent, we’re just go­ing to get on with our game-plan and make sure we’re 100 per cent fo­cused on do­ing what we’re good at.’

Bale re­joined the Wales camp yes­ter­day af­ter the squad flew back from Tbil­isi and he will re­main in Cardiff to watch the game to­mor­row.

‘Gareth, James Collins, and Jazz Richards will be there,’ said Cole­man. ‘I never de­manded them to come. That’s them say­ing: “We’re go­ing to be there to make sure we sup­port the boys.” And we’re go­ing to need it. It’s go­ing to be a hell of a game, the Repub­lic will be ready for it, so we’re go­ing to need all the help we can get.’

Vic­tory in Ge­or­gia, courtesy of Tom Lawrence’s won­der­ful strike, boosted Welsh hopes for qual­i­fy­ing for Rus­sia sig­nif­i­cantly. Beat­ing Ire­land will al­most cer­tainly guar- an­tee a play-off place, while it would also make Cole­man’s side Group D win­ners should Ser­bia fail to de­feat Ge­or­gia. A point may be enough for Wales to gain a play-off berth de­pend­ing on re­sults from else­where in Europe. Ire­land could them­selves still fin­ish first or sec­ond but need to win and the del­i­cate bal­ance should en­sure a fas­ci­nat­ing en­counter of ebb and flow.

Cole­man is fo­cused on one thing. ‘We can’t start look­ing at all the per­mu­ta­tions: “What if Ire­land at­tack us?” What we’ve got to do is say what we want to do from the out­set, not worry about any­one else, stick with that, and pray the plan comes off.’

Even with­out Bale fit to play, it feels like Wales are on a roll. They have lost only one of the past 21 qual­i­fy­ing games and a third clean-sheet vic­tory in a row in Ge­or­gia dis­pelled the no­tion they need Bale to win. As 17-year-old sen­sa­tion Ben Wood­burn had done be­fore, Lawrence stepped up to mag­nif­i­cent ef­fect in Tbil­isi and Cole­man has op­tions should he need to make changes dur­ing the game.

There is be­lief Wales can win a fourth com­pet­i­tive game in suc­ces­sion for the first time in 38 years.

Lawrence’s con­fi­dence in tak­ing cre­ative re­spon­si­bil­ity against Ge­or­gia fu­els that faith. The winger switched Le­ices­ter City for Derby County in a £7mil­lion move this sum­mer to gain reg­u­lar min­utes and said that miss­ing out on Euro 2016 through in­jury added to his de­ter­mi­na­tion to make an im­pact for Wales.

‘That in­jury has pushed me even more,’ said the 23-year-old. ‘It was heart­break­ing to miss the Euros but it has given me the mo­ti­va­tion to come on leaps and bounds.

‘I’m re­ally happy this sea­son, I got my move to Derby and I’ve set­tled in there re­ally well.

‘I can’t wait for the Ire­land game now, the at­mos­phere is go­ing to be un­be­liev­able. Hav­ing Ire­land fight­ing for a place makes for a great game.

‘Our main aim has al­ways been to fo­cus on us, not what other peo­ple are do­ing in the group, and that’s the way we look at it.’

KEY: Play­ers en­joy Tbil­isi win; Cole­man (in­set) af­ter Lawrence’s cru­cial goal

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