Proud Speed takes the heat off Earnshaw after striker’s howler

WALES manager Gary Speed refused to blame striker Robert Earnshaw for the astonishing miss which meant his side left Wembley without the point he felt their performance merited.

Earnshaw, the veteran Cardiff striker, missed an open goal from five yards with just 13 minutes remaining of a game which had seen Wales more than match their illustrious opponents, particularly in the second half.

But Speed, whose last two matches in charge have hinted at a brighter future for Welsh football, felt nothing but sympathy for Earnshaw.

“He’s been great for Wales and will be for years to come. He’s a fantastic lad. I’m sorry it had to happen,” said Speed.

“The pressure we were putting on England meant we were going to get a chance and if you could have it fall to anyone it would have been Earnie. It was unfortunate.

“If we had 25 of him then we’d go a long way. If you want to put your money on anyone in that position then it would be Earnie, but in the bigger picture, if it’s this time next year, maybe we would be ruing that miss a little bit more.

“I think just the way the guys played second-half far outweighs the disappointment of that miss.”

Despite a result which means Wales’ hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 are over, Speed was justifiably proud of his side’s display.

He said: “I’m really proud of the players in there because they stuck to their game plan, they knew what was going to happen and they’re unfortunate not to get the result.

“But the performance and the way the players played, I’m really, really proud.”