No games for Limerick until tomorrow night, when they face Bohemians at home. Considering the way Bohs have been playing lately, it should be the kind of game Limerick pick three points up from, but the jury is still out on Limerick really, with only one win in all their games thus far.
Is there anything that can stop Sligo? They made Cork look distinctly ordinary on Saturday as they basically strolled to yet another win, a 100% start that will probably break records before too long. With several key players still to return from injury, the scary thing about the champions is that they have the potential to be even better.
They still aren’t that far above Derry though, who had similarly easy time against Dundalk. Dundalk battled back well in the previous game against Limerick, but Friday’s game was evidence of a rapidly widening quality gap in this year’s League of Ireland. Derry did it all after going behind and with 10 men in the last 15 minutes too. Looking forward to Sligo/Derry next month.
UCD and Shels both put in more poor showings, both losing at home to St Pats and Drogs respectively. It isn’t too surprising with UCD who have a legacy of just about staying in there but Shels? It’s shocking seeing the amount they have fallen, even since only one year ago. Pats, after a stuttering start due as much to game abandonments as to actually play, are coming back strong and should overtake Dundalk soon to bring some more of last years look to the top of the table. Drogheda’s win against Shels must be taken with a grain of salt, but they too, aren’t too far from being back in the European places.
Only Bray and Shams left to comment. After a truly astonishing succession of draws, you got the feeling that the massacre seen at the Carlisle Grounds was as much about setting the record straight and getting frustrations worked out as it was about actually notching up three points. With Quigley given a more expansive role Rovers were able to slaughter the Bray lads, with the home town collapsing utterly in the second half. I’m still far from convinced that Shams are in any way the same side that won two leagues on the trot in 2010-2011, but they’ve dispelled some of the doom surrounding the club at any rate.
Down below, it really does seem like there is very little separating most of the teams in the First Division this year. Longford are the best of the lot, a hard fought away win at Wexford securing their four point lead at the top, but they led the Division most of the way last year too it must be remembered. Waterford have fallen pace badly since the start of the season, and an away win at Salthill is just the ticket to help revive their fortunes, though a six point gap in the First Division is a lot bigger than it seems. Athlone’s win at home to Finn Harps thrusts them back into contention in a big way, with the Donegal men just stumbling a little in the last few weeks. It was Cobh and Mervue who were left to provide most of the entertainment in a crazy encounter at St Colman’s, a 5-3 score including numerous red cards.
These results leave all but one team – Salthill – within a relatively competitive distance of Longford with the first series of games nearly completed. Many twists and turns ahead in that division.
Across the pond, it was a very disappointing Monday night for Manchester United, outplayed in most respected and lucky to even get the fluke OG that kept them in the game up to the Manchester City winner. The defending champions are a team that are not 15 points worse than United, which makes the table all the more bizarre. United’s defence was solid, but suddenly failed to even attempt a tackle on Sergio Aguero for his goal, while upfront the feeling was of a very neutered offence, that rarely tested Joe Hart. Giggs in the CM role was a failure of an experiment this time, and United looked second best all over the field.
The ship had to be righted fast before talk of blips and choking were taking hold, and United did that to a sufficient extent against Stoke. The opposition were poor it must be said, with a huge amount of “hoofball” tactics that rarely troubled the visitors, save for a few brief moments in the second half. Phil Jones was immense in defence, keeping Walters contained, while De Gea got down well to save several half-decent efforts. Carrick bossed the show, well placed for his opener and being pivotal in the long spells of possession that United enjoyed. United were simply faster and more accurate than Stoke when it came to movement and passing, with the lead-up to RVP’s penalty, from one end to the pitch to the other with a handful of ground passes and only a few seconds, vividly showing that. Good to see the Dutchmen get the ball in the net, even if it was just from a spot-kick. Rooney excelled in the CM role, but that probably had something to do with an opposition that failed to really test him.
It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was comfortable, which will do. West Ham away on Wednesday, a tougher test. Seven from 18.
Sunderland, wow, they put on a show. For all the circus that surrounds their new manager, the team went out and proved that they aren’t on an inevitable slide to relegation, with a lot of players – John O’Shea, McClean et all – who have been underperforming for much of the season suddenly playing like they don’t want to be in the Championship next season.
A battling draw for Reading against Liverpool and a QPR loss to Everton. Both lower placed teams are basically doomed as it stands, with a seven point gap just too much to reasonably expect to be made up for at this point. At the same time, their damaging results for Liverpool, who sit eight points below European football, five behind their neighbours. Moyes easily attracts praise despite little practical accomplishment, but finishing ahead of the red side of the city will certainly be something to point to.
The three-way London race between Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs is actually fairly intriguing. With Arsenal beating Norwich, comfortably in the end, and Chelsea busy going out of the FA Cup, Arsenal have crept back into third place, all while Spurs fall out of the CPL places. Next big test is Europe-chasing Everton, who could jump themselves into the picture with a big result. Spurs/City this Sunday is the really big game of the week, for both clubs.