Easily the most disappointing result and performance of Limerick’s season leaves the run in of the First Division on a knife edge.
I actually struggle to come up with a word appropriate enough tod describe what I witnessed on Friday night. “Aimless” is the best one I think, not just to describe the inaccurate passing and shooting, but the general attitude. This was a Limerick, full strength, which looked dispirited and uninterested in winning.
Defending very deep, Limerick totally failed to dictate pace or tempo. Long ball tactics failed to find their men, while when played short and on the ground the passes were frequently misplaced. Waterford were just as guilty, and combined with a whistle-happy ref it was a truly awful game of football to watch, boring and frustrating, a terrible advertisement for the league and for any new people who may have turned up. There is a debate to be had on the merits of “entertaining” football and whether it should be sacrificed in pursuit of “the result”. But for a league like the LOI, in desperate need of more people in the gates, entertaining football is a must.
Ryan was solid enough in goal, and the defence didn’t have much to deal with for most of the game, but several key errors were made, especially the shambles that led to the only goal. Limerick’s midfield was laughably ineffective, hitting balls first time to nobody throughout the game, fouling indiscriminately. Upfront, Gaffney and Foley frequently strayed out of position, unable to get on the end of the passes sent their way. When they did, they wasted the possession, Gaffney especially having a true “off day”.
Judge’s reckless lunge meant Limerick were reduced to ten men, but considering the way Limerick played, under siege for long portions of the match, unable to clear their lines, it didn’t really matter. Waterford were worth their win, but didn’t exactly light the place on fire.
Kluciar, a centre back by trade, was played on the right wing, the second week in a row when Scully took such an option despite the availability of more natural players for the position. Combined with the bad morale and stagnant performance levels, Scully really is testing the limits of patience. Failure to go up will certainly lead to his dismissal. But even if promotion is achieved, Limerick under Scully, with such an atrocious record in “big games” against decent opposition, will get eaten alive in the Premier Division. He has to go at some point.
Longford’s injury and suspension ravaged squad dropped points in a 1-1 draw away to Athlone, so the league table see’s the top three separated by just three points with Longford still to play both Waterford and Limerick. Limerick have had a few tough games, but face a nominally easier schedule over the next few weeks, at home to Mervue and away to SD Galway.
Up top, Drogheda and Shamrock Rovers both won to maintain the pressure on Sligo, but the first placed team still look very comfortable. UCD’s win over Bray and Dundalk’s loss further increased the gap between the two at the bottom. Dundalk look increasingly likely to to be facing the play-off route in order to insure their Premier Division status.
Two big games tonight for the title race, as St Pats face Derry and Sligo host Bohs. St Pats should be good enough to beat Derry, on the road to Dublin for the second time in four days, which will effectively end any of Derry’s pretensions of challenging for higher places and put the saints back above Shamrock Rovers. Bohs will be hoping to overtake Derry in that event, but Sligo should be more than good enough to beat them and maintain the course for the title.
Across the pond, another dire Manchester United performance was played out yesterday, as Robin Van Persie played out of his skin to save the rest of the team from what would have been a well-earned defeat. De Gea’s dropping put an already patchy and underperforming defence under greater pressure. With the two full backs dominated in the air and the centre looking sluggish, Southampton were able to get the opportunities.
It was worse further up. The 4-3-3 Ferguson is currently employing, with Evra as the advancing left winger, is pitifully exposed when not in possession, with opposing teams strolling through huge gaps in the midfield. When they have the ball, the midfield is able to stroke it around beautifully, but against the defensive structure that Southampton and other teams have taken to using against United, they seem totally impotent, little able to get good through balls or assists down the middle. Valencia on the right wing remains United’s primary assist outlet, but he can’t do it all on his own. Cleverley is especially guilty when it comes to the midfields deficiencies, with Scholes hugely altering how effective it was when he came on.
The focus on RVP and Rooney has left Welbeck without critical attention, but his mediocre showings won’t go unnoticed much longer. RVP was able to carry the team yesterday, but he needs a better strike partner than Welbeck.
In terms of solutions, the introduction of Buttner at the back, along with a returning Evans and a rehabilitated De Gea should do wonders in producing some stability. For the midfield, Kagawa might be better served playing a bit further back while we wait on any number of other players – Anderson, Fletcher, Cleverley in better form – to get stuck in a bit more. Upfront, Hernandez might be due for a few starts over Welbeck.
Elsewhere, Liverpool’s woes continued as Arsenal finally got off the mark. Rodgers’ has a hell of a task in front of him, with a squad weakened over the summer and with only a handful of really decent players. Manchester City are still looking a bit sluggish at times, but are more than good enough to get over the likes of QPR. Both Spurs and Newcastle are off to slow starts and it remains to be seen how successful AVB’s transfer policy will be.