Ireland inflict a black eye on toothless England

Sturridge ruled out of Brazil match as Hodgson’s striker injury crisis worsens


ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson bemoaned his team’s lack of firepower after they limped to a draw in last night’s full-blooded friendly at Wembley, which passed trouble-free in the stands.

In the first fixture between the two sides since their infamous 1995 meeting was abandoned on 27 minutes due to crowd trouble at Lansdowne Road, both sets of supporters were refreshingly on their best behaviour.

The 11,000 visiting supporters had the first reason to cheer when Shane Long put Ireland ahead on 13 minutes, but veteran midfielder Frank Lampard levelled midway through the first half.

However the home side lacked bite after they lost Daniel Sturridge to an ankle injury that will mean England travel to Brazil for Sunday’s friendly at the Maracana with Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe as the only recognised strikers, and Hodgson admitted he will need reinforcements when the World Cup qualifying campaign resumes in September.

“We do have a lot of firepower unavailable to us and I have to hope that firepower is available in September and October,” he said.

“I’m disappointed with the result, it would have been nice to sign off with a victory. But I can’t be disappointed with the way we tried to win the game. In terms of what we’re asking the players to do and the way we’re asking them to play I thought there were a lot of positives.

“There are opponents in front of you and sometimes those opponents put a spanner in the works and the Irish did that very well. It was anything other than an end of season exhibition; it was very competitive.”

Ireland moved in front when West Brom striker Long rose above Glen Johnson inside the box to glance the impressive Seamus Coleman’s sublime swirling cross beyond the clutches of goalkeeper Joe Hart.

The travelling green army rejoiced with their own take on the cult Poznan celebration, linking arms and turning their back to the pitch, and lighting green flares.

But their joy lasted just 10 minutes before Lampard equalised, after defender Sean St Ledger failed to clear Danny Welbeck’s left-wing cross and the Chelsea star, earning his 96th cap, prodded home his 29th international goal, moving joint-ninth on England’s all-time scorers’ list.

Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain forced the first significant save from Ireland goalkeeper David Forde on 34 minutes with a lofted shot from a narrow angle, but the Millwall stopper made a comfortable catch at his near post.

After the break, a last-ditch intervention from Coleman prevented captain for the night Ashley Cole from connecting with Theo Walcott’s low cross for what would have been his first England goal in 102 appearances.

Walcott himself saw a low effort pushed round the post by Forde, following a lung-busting run from Oxlade-Chamberlain, as England looked to impose their authority.

But Forde, Ireland’s best player on the night, saved again from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott with his feet in the final 10 minutes to ensure a fourth consecutive 1-1 draw between the sides.

“You’ll never beat the Ireland,” sang the travelling fans at full-time. England have not done so since 1985.