Wales caretaker Robert Page lauds match-winner David Brooks after difficult year
Wales caretaker manager Robert Page paid tribute to David Brooks after the Bournemouth forward struck a Nations League winner against the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff.
Brooks headed home his second international goal from close range after 66 minutes as Wales beat Ireland 1-0 to stay top of Group B4.
The 23-year-old has endured a difficult year or so after missing most of last season following two ankle operations and then suffering relegation from the Premier League with the Cherries.
“To have a fully-fit David Brooks is absolutely brilliant,” said Page, who was standing in again for absent manager Ryan Giggs.
“He showed glimpses of his quality again. He can mix it up, and he can score headed goals in the six-yard box as well.”
“He scored two for his club last week and he’s come in and scored a really big important goal for us.
“I was with him in Ireland when he went over on his ankle and saw how low he was after that, which was frustrating for him and horrible for us to see.
“He had a little setback, but thankfully, he’s come back and growing stronger as the weeks go on.”
Wales welcome Finland to Cardiff on Wednesday with promotion to League A up for grabs.
Finland’s 2-1 win in Bulgaria kept them one point behind a Wales side who have now gone 10 games unbeaten in competitive football and have not conceded for over 700 minutes.
“The boys work hard for it,” Page said. “That’s not just the back four or back five, it’s the goalkeeper as well.
“As a unit they are well-organised and hard working.
“We rode our luck a couple of times but we’re hard to break down.
“I think we gave the ball away cheaply in the first half. It was very frustrating and I said that to the players at half-time.
“We invited pressure into our box and we gave cheap free-kicks away. That disappointed us a little bit.
“We decided to change the shape late on, and it worked for us.
“We’ll take the clean sheet, the three points and look forward to a big game on Wednesday.”
While Wales battle it out for top spot, Ireland will host bottom-of-the-table Bulgaria knowing a first win of manager Stephen Kenny’s reign, which now extends to seven games, would stave off the spectre of relegation.
Asked if he was confident he would be successful going forward, Kenny, whose squad has been depleted by both coronavirus and injuries over the last two months, replied: “Yes, I have no doubts I will be a success, absolutely no doubts.
“We have a clear vision of what we want. Between this camp and the previous camp, we have been in quite unprecedented circumstances, in modern times anyway. Certainly, it’s quite unprecedented.
“Nevertheless, the players have come out against a good Wales team today and put in a good performance overall.
“We didn’t create a load of chances, but you’re not going to against a good Wales team. We probably had the better chances up to the last five minutes, when they had two on the break.
“That’s how I see it. We have to dust ourselves down and get ready for Bulgaria.
“And for the World Cup campaign we will have Seamus Coleman, Enda Stevens, John Egan, and attacking options like Aaron Connolly, Alan Browne, an emerging Troy Parrott coming into what we have. James McCarthy as well.
“That will give us a lot of encouragement.”