Joe Ledley urges Wales to keep clear heads for Ireland showdown
‘Obviously we know it is a derby, but we must not get involved in anything’
Wales’ Tom Lawrence scores his side’s goal in the World Cup qualifier against Georgia at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA Wire
Joe Ledley has called for clear heads as Wales seek to secure a 2018 World Cup playoff spot amid the emotion of a derby game against the Republic of Ireland.
Tom Lawrence’s superb second-half strike gave Wales a 1-0 win in Georgia on Friday night – their third successive victory in World Cup qualifying.
Wales would still win Group D – and automatic qualification to next summer’s finals in Russia – if they overcome Martin O’Neill’s side on Monday and leaders Serbia fail to beat Georgia at home on the same evening.
But it is more likely that Wales and Ireland will be contesting second place in the group and the right to feature in next month’s playoffs.
With so much on the line, emotions will be running high in Cardiff, especially as memories remain fresh of their Dublin clash in March.
“Obviously we know it is a derby, but we must not get involved in anything,” Ledley said.
“We need to be clever and we have a lot of experience, so it is down for us.
“Monday will be a battle and they will fight hard, it is always the same in these games.
“But it will be a great occasion, and hopefully we can do it with one last push.”
Wales head into the final qualifier seeking a fourth consecutive victory for the first time in 36 years.
They hold a one-point advantage over Ireland and a draw should be enough to claim a playoff place.
“Three wins and three clean sheets is very positive,” Ledley added.
“All that is all out of the window on Monday, but I do feel this is the strongest squad we have had.
“We see the youngsters coming through in training and it is only a matter of time before they get a chance.”
Captain Ashley Williams also promised Wales will take a positive approach as they attempt to close in on a first World Cup finals appearance since 1958.
“In a game like this I don’t think we would ever say we would play for a draw,” Williams said.
“We will try to create and take the game to them, but we will also try to shut Ireland out.
“As a defender we pride ourselves on clean sheets, so a 1-0 win was extra nice.”
Williams also praised matchwinner Lawrence, the Derby striker’s first international goal coming in his ninth appearance.
It also arrived at a time when Wales were looking for inspiration with Real Madrid star Gareth Bale out injured.
“He has been around a while and we don’t look at him as a young lad any more,” Williams said of the 23-year-old Lawrence.
“I know as soon as he set himself up he would score because I have seen it so much in training.
“We said we needed someone before the game as Gaz was out, someone to create something and score a goal and Tom showed his maturity to do that.”