Northern Ireland and Wales had to settle for a point apiece in a result that does little for either side’s Euro 2021 qualification prospects.
Kenny Shiels’ Northern Ireland are still chasing a first win in the campaign, while Wales’ hopes of winning the group now seem extremely unlikely.
Both sides had chances to win a tense contest with Laura O’Sullivan denying Simone Magill and Lauren Wade.
Wales’ Angharad James saw her side’s best chance saved by Rebecca Flaherty.
Wales remain second in Group C and unbeaten, albeit with two games to play against group favourites Norway, while Northern Ireland will still be hopeful they can catch Wales and finish second, with double-headers against Belarus and the Faroe Islands to come.
The group runners-up are guaranteed at least a play-off berth.
Injuries blighting Welsh qualification hopes
Wales boss Jayne Ludlow is probably starting to feel her side’s campaign is cursed when it comes to injuries.
Talismanic midfielder Jess Fishlock has missed the whole campaign with a knee injury, Rachel Rowe missed the first two matches, skipper Sophie Ingle missed matchday three and for the visit to Seaview Wales were also without their top scorer in the campaign, Natasha Harding.
Harding was replaced by Tottenham’s Megan Wynne, picked to start for the first time.
Northern Ireland were boosted by the return of Simone Magill and it was a very special evening for Ashley Hutton, who was awarded a golden cap for her 100th Northern Ireland appearance.
The 2-2 draw at Rodney Parade did neither side huge favours as they look to announce themselves as the team to challenge Norway in Group C, with the runners-up guaranteed at least a play-off for a chance to play at Euro 2021.
Wales captain Ingle called the match “must win” and her side were the more likely in the first period, though it was Northern Ireland who had the best opportunity.
Their key chance came in just the second minute when Wade’s brilliant cross was headed by Magill, but O’Sullivan produced a fingertip save to deny her.
It was a nice moment for O’Sullivan, who is probably still having nightmares about her part in Northern Ireland’s equaliser at Rodney Parade. She was not tested again in the first half.
Conversely Wales created and failed to take a succession of half chances in a first half where they were full of endeavour but short on cutting edge.
A speculative shot from Rowe was deflected just wide, before a long ball over the top allowed Rowe to get a toe to the ball, but her touch ballooned onto the roof of the net.
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James also came close but curled just wide, while Wynne and Kayleigh Green combined to feed Rowe on the edge of the area, but Flaherty – bloodied on the nose by an earlier clash with Green – made the save.
Northern Ireland were fastest out of the blocks at the start of both halves and Magill lashed the ball at goal following a corner O’Sullivan spilled, but the Wales goalkeeper used her body to block Magill’s goalbound effort.
Flaherty repels Welsh in second half
Rowe – who scored Wales’ winner in their last qualifier in Belarus – was looking a constant threat and when Flaherty advanced and mishit her clearance, Rowe’s speculative 40-yard effort dipped just over, rather than under the crossbar, while Ingle fired over when Rachel Newborough conceded possession.
Wales had missed several chances but none were gilt-edged until James was played clean through, but Flaherty saved smartly with 25 minutes remaining.
Ingle was forced to clear when O’Sullivan missed another high ball, with the tension only increasing as the stalemate continued.
A moment of magic or a mistake was needed and Wade almost provided it with a fine chipped effort from an acute angle, but O’Sullivan clawed the ball out for a corner at full stretch.
Wales then fashioned another terrific late chance, but Rowe’s left-footed effort was saved by Flaherty to secure the draw.
Player of the match: Rebecca Flaherty – Made some excellent saves and kept her side level.
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