Sam Vokes on course to be first Claret ever to feature at a European Championship Finals

Sam Vokes runs to congratulate Gareth Bale after the Real Madrid forward scored against Israel earlier in the campaign
Sam Vokes runs to congratulate Gareth Bale after the Real Madrid forward scored against Israel earlier in the campaign
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Sam Vokes is on target to be Burnley’s first-ever representative at a UEFA European Championship Finals.

The striker replaced goalscorer Gareth Bale in the 88th minute at the Cardiff City Stadium as Wales won 1-0 to usurp opponents Belgium at the top of Group B.

Bale’s 25th minute winner, his fifth goal in six qualifying games, saw Wales take a significant stride towards ending their 57-year absence from major tournaments.

Chris Coleman’s side are now three points ahead of last year’s World Cup quarter-finalists with four qualifiers remaining and five clear of third place Israel.

And Vokes, who returned to the Wales squad for the 3-0 victory over Israel in March, could be joined by Clarets team-mate Danny Lafferty at the finals in France and Burnley-born Reading midfielder Oliver Norwood.

The full back, who made 11 appearances for Rotherham during a loan spell away from Turf Moor last season, didn’t feature in Northern Ireland’s stalemate against Group F leaders Romania.

However, Norwood saw out the 90 minutes in Belfast and helped Michael O’Neill’s Green and White army stay within a point of top spot.

In Group D, Burnley’s Stephen Ward watched from the bench as the Republic of Ireland slipped up against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Stoke City’s Jon Walters had given the hosts a first half lead to keep them in pursuit of a play-off spot, but Scotland held on to third spot when Shaun Maloney’s strike beat Shay Given via a deflection off John O’Shea to make it 1-1.

Elsewhere, Tom Heaton was an unused substitute in England’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Slovenia in Ljubljana.

The 29-year-old goalkeeper, who was also on the bench for the draw with the Republic of Ireland last weekend, watched as Wayne Rooney moved level with Gary Lineker on 48 international goals.

The Manchester United striker is just one goal shy of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s record.

England fell behind to Milivoje Novakovic’s opener but two exquisite strikes from Jack Wilshere put the Three Lions back in the driving seat.

Rooney netted late on after Nejc Pecnik had equalised in the 84th minute to move Roy Hodgson’s men six points clear at the summit of Group E.

Finally, Michael Keane and Danny Ings flew out to the Under 21’s European Championship base in Olomouc, Czech Republic, following a 1-0 friendly win over Belarus at Barnsley’s Oakwell home on Thursday.