Republic of Ireland held England to a drab draw as Ashley Cole's 102nd international cap produced an uninspiring encounter at Wembley.

A fine header from Shane Long gave Giovanni Trapattoni's side a surprising early lead before Frank Lampard capitalised on some shoddy Irish defending to restore parity.

Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain
Oxlade-Chamberlain was foiled more than once by the impressive Ford. (Reuters)

Despite commandeering the game throughout the second half, a sharp David Forde ensured that the game ended level, the fourth consecutive occasion a clash between these two sides has ended in a 1-1 draw.

After the horrific scenes that marred the last encounter between these two sides 15 years ago, Wembley was enjoying a bubbling atmosphere not usually reserved for a mid-week friendly as things got under way. Both sides began the contest in a lively fashion with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looking menacing while sharp starts from Robbie Keane and Seamus Coleman ensured a balanced opener.

It was the Everton full back who provided the game's first piece of outstanding quality, which led to an Irish opener after 13 minutes. With space on the right, Coleman whipped in a sublime cross that was met by the head of the towering Long. The West Brom forward out jumped Glen Johnson to head a fine effort past the flailing Joe Hart to give the boys in green an unexpected victory.

A stunned England were initially limited to paltry long range efforts following the opener, with the excellent James McCarthy providing all the drive and industry in midfield that will likely have clubs queuing up for him following Wigan's relegation.

The Irish lead would last just ten minutes, as Lampard sprung on some sloppy defending to level the game. Daniel Sturridge collected the ball on the left hand side and after seemingly taking an age to release a teammate, the Liverpool man's patience was rewarded when his cross found Lampard who timed his run perfectly to nip in between the disorganised Irish back line. Sean St Ledger could have done better to intercept the ball, but the Chelsea midfielder's clever thinking punished the Irish as he scored his 29th goal in his 96th England appearance.

Sturridge, the in form player heading into the contest, suddenly found himself in trouble when he pulled up while chasing back into a defensive position. Having waited patiently for his chance to impress on the international stage once again, the Liverpool forward immediately knew his game was over with the image of a stretcher and the 23-year-old's concerned looks signaling the end of his evening after half an hour, replaced by Jermain Defoe.

England opened the second half with added verve and nearly took the lead through the captain for the night Cole. While the Chelsea defender's run may have deserved a goal, he was unable to convert after some attractive build up play from Wayne Rooney and Walcott.

England began to take control of the game with Michael Carrick expertly dictating from the centre of midfield with Lampard and Oxlade-Chamberlain fashioning chances for themselves that were charged down by the Irish defence.

But as the possession stats began to lean to one side, the game developed into the jaded affair you would expect following a demanding domestic campaigns for all involved.

As the half wore on, Ireland's reservation grew as England's asserted themselves at Wembley, but seldom managed to open up the hard working opposition, failing to find that spark that would be so sorely lacking in the second half. Not that the home side didn't have their chances. An excellent counter started by Chamberlain created another opening when Theo Walcott struck a vicious drive following a generous through ball from Defoe, which needed a solid save from Forde to keep out.

The Millwall shot stopper was called into action twice more before the game stumbled to its uneventful end, keeping Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott out once again to ensure a draw on the night.