Kevin Doyle and Keith Andrews continued the recent run of Irish goal scorers in the Premier League with second half efforts for Wolves and WBA while Robbie Keane waved good bye to the Premier League yet again.
Terry Connor took the reins at Wolves midweek from Mick McCarthy and the former assistant manager was indebted to one of McCarthy’s big money signings as Doyle scored a 66th minute equaliser to rescue a point.
Doyle has shown a return to form in recent weeks and he showed his line leading abilities to good effect against a normally resolute magpies defence. The Wexford man also showed good awareness to react fastness to a scramble in the box to score.
Stephen Ward warmed up for the clash with the Czech Republic with a Jekyll & Hyde performance at the Sports Direct Arena, a first half that mirrored the rest of his team mates as he struggled against Ryan Taylor was followed up with an improved second half. Ward has made the left back jersey his own in recent months however there are still question marks over his defensive abilities and he struggles against fast direct wingers.
Kevin Foley was another who improved as the game went on while Stephen Hunt had very little time to warrant a comment, coming on with just five minutes left.
At Loftus Road Paddy Kenny and his QPR side failed to halt their miserable run against Fulham as they went down 1-0. There was little Kenny could do for the goal which Pavel Pogrebbyak took well. On the Fulham side, Stephen Kelly has a strong game at right back while Damien Duff ensured he should at least be fresh on Wednesday with a 12 minute cameo.
The result of the weekend came at the Hawthorns where WBA beat an inform Sunderland 4-0. Roy Hodgson will have been delighted with the result, not to mention a second goal for recent signing Keith Andrews on his full debut. Andrews impressed in the middle of the park and is really enjoying a fine season, making a mockery of Steve Kean’s decision to overlook him at Ewood Park.
Hodgson will also be delighted with the return of Shane Long who came on with 9 minutes left, his first game since the 28th of January.
Steven Reid meanwhile was up against one of the inform wingers in the Premier League in James McClean however the former Blackburn man stuck to his task with great conviction keeping the former Derry man relatively quiet for the 90 minutes.
McClean was not the only one to struggle in the midlands as John O’Shea, who has looked strong at the back in recent weeks struggled with the pace and movement of Peter Odemwingie and Marc-Antoine Fortune.
At the DW Wigan’s recent improved performances as they held Villa to a 0-0 draw. James McCarthy played in a holding midfield role and was comfortable in the position doing the job required.
Robbie Keane meanwhile played the final game of his loan spell and once again put in a performance, that while lacking in goals, was enough to show Villa fans and under pressure Alex McLeish what they will be missing. It will be a real surprise if the Villain’s don’t make a summer move for the forward.
Shay Given, without the protection of Richard Dunne, into the 2nd week of a probable 8 week absence with a collarbone injury, had little to do thanks mainly to a strong performance from Carlos Cuellar.
Stephen Ireland has spoken in recent days of a return to the international set up however he needs to bed down a regular place in the Villa line up before he can pull on the green of Ireland once more. Ireland played the last 16 minutes of the game but couldn’t make an impact on proceedings.
Sunday’s action saw Anthony Pilkington and substitute Wes Hoolahan almost shock Manchester United however Ryan Giggs, in his 900th appearance, had other ideas with a late winner while Glenn Whelan, Marc Wilson and Jon Walters were solid if unspectacular as Stoke beat Swansea two nil.
In the Championship, Ireland’s young player of the year Darren O’Dea was booked as Leeds drew with a Portsmouth side containing goal keeper Stephen Henderson, who was called into the Irish squad.
Andy Keogh scored the opening goal while David Forde conceded a last minute penalty as Millwall beat Burnley 3-1.
Finally Birmingham slipped to fifth in the Championship with a 2-1 defeat to lowly Nottingham, Keith Fahey, who will hope for a run out against the Czech’s, played the full 90 minutes.
In the SPL Anthony Stokes played the final 32 minutes as Celtic beat Darren Randolph’s Motherwell 1-0 to extended their lead at the top to 20 points.