Slightly more exotic climes are where this roundup begins, however, as Chris Baird played 90 minutes in Northern Ireland’s 1-0 loss to Turkey. It’s fair to say Baird’s lack of mobility is a detriment to the 31-year-old's game, but this was combined with poor positioning as he was out of place for Saint-Etienne’s Melvut Erdinc to score the winning goal. A lobbed through ball saw Baird unaware of his man, and ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll made a futile rush to the pass which the striker latched onto deep into first half stoppage time. Perhaps he is not used to playing centre-back as much these days, but this goal will serve those doubting his ability to play their for Reading.
Also on Friday night, the clash of Reading’s centre-backs ended in a 3-0 victory to Republic of Ireland, as Kaspars Gorkss captained Latvia. He then sat out a midweek 1-0 win over Championship strugglers Yeovil Town.
Unfortunately, the ‘clash’ was somewhat of an anti-climax as Reading defenders Alex Pearce and Stephen Kelly were benched by new manager Martin O’Neill. However, in Tuesday night’s friendly in Poland both did feature. A 0-0 draw, Kelly arguably squandered Ireland’s best chance with a poor header when in a good position from a corner. However, he made amends when he followed a mazy dribble by Borussia Dortmund winger Jakub Blaszczykowski and stuck in a last-ditch challenge as he charged up a close-range shot.
Alex Pearce earned his 2nd cap, replacing James McCarthy on the hour to see out a clean sheet in a game of few shots-on-target.
While a poor result for Wales on Saturday night, starters Hal Robson-Kanu and Chris Gunter will have reason to be pleased with their performance as Finland took a late 1-1 draw in Cardiff. Robson-Kanu started down the left-wing, and providing a lovely floated cross for Leicester’s Andy King to knod into the near post. You can see it here (it is the first highlight of the video).
Chris Gunter continued his good form with a solid 72 minute showing, keeping a personal clean-sheet. He almost bagged an assist, too, with a low-cross just evading solid contact from earlier goalscorer King.
As mentioned last week, goalkeeper Jon Henly didn’t take part in the Scottish under-21s draw with Georgia on Thursday, but should take it as a positive to be involved in the squad that drew 1-1. Jake Cooper had a similar fate for England under-19s, who won 4-1 over Hungary with the Reading player restricted to standby duty.