Northern Ireland performed superbly in securing a startling
draw on English soil against heavily-favoured England in an enthralling match that took dramatic twists and turns.
England had beaten Northern Ireland 12 times in succession;
the last point Northern Ireland had taken against England had come 20 years
before in 1927. This was the second post-war meeting between the
two. England had won 7-2 at Belfast's Windsor Park in their first
post-war international match in September, 1946.
For the fourth successive match, England fielded one of the greatest forward lines ever assembled--Stanley Matthews, Stan
Mortensen, Tommy Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney. The selectors had discovered
in May that they could play both Finney and Matthews in
the same team by switching the versatile Finney to the left wing. This
switch brought together a marvelous attacking combination that had produced
three straight one-sided away victories over Portugal, 10-0, Belgium, 5-2, and Wales,
England had a decided advantage in play over the first half
hour, but failed to capitalize on it. Mannion, the best England forward
on the day, and Finney played well, but Matthews was quieter than usual.
As the half progressed, Northern Ireland's customary passion brought them into
the game. But a great deal of effort from both teams went unrewarded,
and the half ended scoreless.
The second half was astonishing. The Irish took the lead nine minutes in when Dave Walsh scored
from a Peter Doherty pass. Inspired, the Irish twice threatened to
increase their lead, Tommy Eglington and Sammy Smyth almost breaking through England's shaky defence.
The prospect of an upset already had injected great tension
match, but sudden reversals in fortune over the last 20 minutes took
spectators to levels of excitement that surely left them drained.
At 70 minutes, Matthews was brought down in the
penalty area. An England equalizer through the ensuing penalty kick
seemed certain, but Ted Hinton saved from Mannion.
Yet England remained composed and continued to fight.
Only seven minutes remained when Billy Wright, playing well forward, set up
Mannion for the equalizer.
Mannion wasn't finished. Soon after he put
Matthews clear down the right for a perfectly flighted cross that found
Lawton, whose magnificent volley from 15 yards put England one up.
As the match reached its final seconds, it seemed England
would prevail once again despite a spirited Irish display deserving more
than another loss. But, with the last kick of the game, Eglington sent
over a fine cross, Doherty hurled himself forward, and Northern Ireland were level again.
The final whistle came right away, and jubilant Irish supporters carried
Doherty, injured in his last-gasp effort, from the pitch.