Wales fans would likely prefer Monday night’s 1-0 defeat to Ireland to be lost to the annals of history. There was an incredible atmosphere at Cardiff City Stadium but Chris Coleman’s boys couldn’t quite get themselves over the line as the visitors took the three points in an all-or-nothing World Cup qualifier – Ireland, rather than the Dragons, progressing to the playoffs.
But that’s not to say Wales performed poorly. They struggled to create a moment of magic that would unlock a water-tight Ireland defence and were inevitably caught on the counter-attack as they looked to increase the pressure on Martin O’Neill’s side. James McClean latched onto Jeff Hendrick’s low cross after winning the ball off Ashley Williams to tuck home the only goal of the evening.
A number of Wales players can hold their heads up high – including Joe Ledley who produced a typically dogged and dynamic display in central midfield. The 30-year-old made the joint-second-most tackles of any player on the pitch while ranking second for chances created, highlighting his ability to make an impact at both ends.
After beginning the season as a free agent, Ledley’s started his Derby career incredibly brightly – having penned a contract at Pride Park until January last month. The former Celtic and Crystal Palace man netted just 15 minutes into his debut against Brentford, although he failed to have the same impact in a scoreless draw with boyhood club Cardiff.
Signed without a transfer fee, despite being valued at £3.15million by Transfermarkt, and already showing what he can do in the Championship and on the international scene, Ledley is looking like one of the bargains of the season in the second tier. Gary Rowett will surely be desperate to extend the terms of Ledley’s short-term deal in the new year, but he could easily receive offers from the top flight as well.