RHYS Norrington-Davies stepped on to the Cardiff City Stadium pitch in stoppage time on Sunday evening to help keep Ukraine at bay and see Cymru through to the finals of the World Cup in Qatar.
Robert Page’s side were holding on to a slender 1-0 lead in the playoff final thanks to a deflected Gareth Bale free kick which was credited as an Andriy Yarmolenko own goal, when the former Ysgol Penglais pupil replaced man-of-the-match Neco Williams who had hurt himself in a last-ditch challenge.
With the Red Wall in full voice, Wales held out to secure a place at the top table for the first time in 64 years to scenes of jubilation and relief.
Sheffield United defender Norrington-Davies, 23, has established himself as a senior pro with the Blades this season after loan spells with Luton and Stoke City and has always stepped up to the mark on the international stage when call up for Wales.
He produced a very strong showing in the Nations League at the Tarczynski Arena in Wroclaw last Wednesday, where Wales lost a hard-fought encounter 2-1 after taking a 52nd minute lead through Jonny Williams.
Robert Page named a much changed side in Poland with the World Cup playoff against Ukraine the priority but the display in Wroclaw demonstrated the depth of this Wales squad with Norrington-Davies, debutant Wes Burns, Dylan Levitt, Brennan Johnson and others giving the manager genuine options across the pitch.
A new-look back three of Chris Gunter, Chris Mepham and Norrington-Davies shaped up well against quality opposition.
Rhys’ father Patrick said after Wales booked their place in Qatar: “When Rhys came up to the players’ lounge after the game you could tell he was over the moon, his face was beaming and he was clearly elated with the result and the thought of qualifying for Qatar. They are a very close group of players and feed off each other and the determination to win.
“He had an excellent game against Poland and was highly praised by the management team and players after the game so we should see more of Rhys in the games ahead.
“The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and as ever an extremely proud moment for his parents, siblings, wider family and supporters from Aberystwyth and beyond.”
Of Rhys’ progress at Bramall Lane he added: “Sheffield is a difficult one. Chris Wilder and Paul Heckingbottom always go for experience but he had a good number of starts and also cemented his position as a senior pro there so he has broken through and done the hard work.
“Like Wales l think they both know he is outstanding in defence and attacking on the front foot; he just needs to improve his final third of play which he knows.
“I suspect he might feature more in the back line left of three but still has the speed and agility to be the left wingback.
“Depending on changes over the summer l think he will also feature more next season and possibly become the number one.”
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