Some really bad football played Saturday night.
I kind of wish the sending off didn’t happen, since Shelbourne just packed out their defence for the rest of the game, shut the door. I had a pretty good view of the incident, the Limerick player (Williams I think?) seemed to trip as he went for the ball and went into the Bayly’s back. The Ref blew, I assumed it was Shels free and was checking my phone when suddenly everyone was shouting. I saw the red, and for a second I thought he’d sent Williams off. I can’t understand why the red was shown, but the Ref had a much better view than I did. Did he swing an elbow? We’ll see on MNS.
Shels just had eight back for the rest of the game, two lines and they stuck to their task really well. Limerick struggled to adapt and focused too much on going down the centre and right, with Gaffney, in his first start of the season, under-utilised in his traditional role as a left winger/striker. It wasn’t until the second half that Limerick consistently tested their keeper, with Gaffney having a few close-range chances, but Limerick really let Shels off light considering the situation. Tracy should have scored at the end of the first half, but his failure to keep the ball low when faced with an open goal was very poor. Some awful crosses throughout, and a real hesitance to shoot in good positions or even just play the ball forward at speed. It seemed like lofted balls from just inside Limerick’s half, directed towards Curran or Gaffney, were causing Shels some problems in the first, but that pretty much ceased in the second half.
Shels were so much better in that second half, that I would not have been one bit surprised if they had won the game. They won so many corners, so many frees in a dangerous area, and there were some really tense moments towards the end. Still, the fact that they didn’t score is probably evidence of how poor they are this year. Maybe 11 on 11 the game would have been more open and Limerick could have done better, but it was hard to see it.
Ryan was solid, but by the end, every time he was kicking the ball out, he couldn’t find a Limerick player. Defence was jittery at times, but had little to do for much of the game save for clearing headers, with Tracy pushing forward and leaving the rest to it. Midfield was iffy. O’Leary couldn’t do much, Gamble was really wasteful (that “shot” after being set up by Gaffney, wow). Galbriath found lots of space and kept calling for the ball, but did no better with it when he got it than anyone else. It was when he finally started trying to beat players and head to the touchline that he got really dangerous and I wish he had done it more. I certainly think he had been pushed for his “simulation” yellow, but maybe MNS will clear it up. Not sure why he was given a MOTM award, he really didn’t have that big of an impact.
Curran runs and runs, took the ball down well and probably did the most of anybody in trying to make opportunities in the final third. But he was dead on his feet by the end, and spent a bit too much time on the ground for my liking. Gaffney isn’t match fit, I wouldn’t expect him to be, and he still made himself a bit of a threat, but some of his crosses were truly dire.
I know the subs bench is a bit light, but I really think Browne should have come on much sooner. He won a few balls in the air when he did come on, made himself useful. I really don’t agree with bringing people on in the 91st minute, I don’t think Judge even touched the ball.
I haven’t seen a crowd that disappointed since losing to Waterford at home last year. Some really annoyed fans, and I don’t just mean the more recent crowd either. I think performances like this are the sort to drive prospective fans away more than results like the Pats or Shams home game. That being said, I actually thought the support, from the terraces at least, was top notch for most of the game, some of the lads were in fine voice, more than at other home games this season, but certainly a lot were getting really frustrated by close of play. Important to remember, with nearly a third of the season gone, I think Limerick are in a better position than they could have hoped for at the start of the season. Some very tough games coming up now though, not least an away trip to Derry next weekend.
Derry’s recent charge did stutter a bit on Friday night, but that’s just evidence that Pats are really getting back into the swing of things after such a disrupted beginning to their campaign. It was actually their first draw of the season, which is a far cry from the constant stalemate results of last year. They probably should have won it, but both teams put in a good shift by all accounts.
Sligo should have punished both of them for dropping points, but find themselves on the cusp of “blip” territory, having failed to win any of their last four games. The game against Drogs will probably be more remembered for the hooligan element that hijacked affairs for a time. Even a man down, Sligo were probably the better team in the second half, but Drogs battled back and just about deserved their late, late equaliser on the basis of play, though maybe not on the basis of some of their support. The likes of Elding and Greene should be good enough, barring injury, to keep the champions ticking over, but their first half display was dire and a better team that Drogs would have been further ahead at half-time. Sligo now face into the prospect of games away to Shamrock Rovers and at home to second place Derry, with no guarantee of picking up anything in those encounters.
Not that Shams have much to be proud of. Falling to the Students is never good, but Rovers dropped the ball in spectacular style late on at the Bowl. There are times when you can’t believe UCD have been such a consistent presence in the top tier, such as the first 75 minutes of this game when they were utterly dominated by Rovers. Then there are other times when it all becomes clear, as they snatched two goals to win it, by a margin that flattered to deceive. Still, Rovers seem to have all sorts of problems when it comes to the correct utilisation of players, injuries and suspensions, and are already looking at a season to match or exceed the misery of last year.
Cork City are not having the best month, and rounded it off with an away defeat to high-flying Dundalk. I caught it on telly, and Dundalk really did deserve the lead and the win, catching Cork napping for both goals, and well capable of adding a few more. The Leesiders really struggled to work anything worthwhile upfront, with Denis Behan looking especially ineffective in that position. Compare with the threat Mountney posed at times, and you begin to see the difference. Cork had an awful first third of a season last year, worse than this one, and they’ll right the ship eventually, but overall they’ve been disappointing since their return to the top flight.
After conceding 12 straight goals without reply, Bray finally got one back in a hard-fought contest against Bohs, but it was the Dalymount side that came out on top. Bohs looked capable at times throughout the Limerick match, like a side that had learned from some really poor displays recently, but Bray still had so many problems, especially at the back. Conceding two goals in three minutes is a sign of serious defensive deficiencies and Jason Byrne just can’t get the ball in the net in the last few weeks. Bohs dominated large spells and were rewarded for their efforts. Like Cork, they have enough talent to avoid a relegation battle, provided they get results like this against what is becoming a clearly defined “bottom three” of Shels, Bray and UCD.
Down below, Longford extended their lead as series two started, even if it appears to have been a very close-run thing against Salthill. Still, a six-point lead is nothing to turn your nose up at and Longford just have to maintain a modicum of consistency to enjoy Premier League football next season. Wexford continue to vary wildly in form, with an easy-enough three goal win against Cobh, two of their goals coming after a man was sent off, but neither side seems capable of stringing together a series of positive results that would put them into the picture. Waterford have clawed their way back into the play-off hunt with an away win over Finn Harps, a result that many teams find difficult to get, but I still have reservations about their long-term health. The big game was probably Mervue/Athlone, and the Galway men will regret a series of errors that has allowed that gap to open up at the top, with an OG and a late penalty allowing Athlone to claim a point. These kind of little things can really tell over the course of a season and Mervue have no kind of pedigree when it comes to keeping up form.
Across the water then. A dominating display of the most routine sort sealed the title against Villa, with the team and stadium in party mood by half-time. The last vestiges of having anything to play for vanished with the 1-1 draw at Arsenal, but then again, the points record chase did seem to be something that was being pushed more by the media then by the team. Arsenal played very well, the best in years they have played against United, but they’re missing that real stand-out player – a RVP type – to really keep them into gear. Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla are all good players (at times) but they aren’t talismans. United were able to drag themselves back into the game, helped largely by some terrible defensive work throughout by Sagna. Arsenal also seem to struggle when dealing with crosses directed close to the goal, as United were able to fashion a number of chances from that kind of floated ball. If Arsenal do miss out on the Champions League, it’ll be due to things of that nature.
United are in a different class. A greater retrospective on their title win will come later, but for now it is enough to salute the comprehensive way they went about securing the title on Monday and congratulate the team on coming back from the worst kind of disappointment of last year.
Do Liverpool really need Suarez? You might ask that after they so effectively mauled Newcastle. But the Magpies have been in freefall for so much of the season, that this totally hames of a run-in cannot be used by Liverpool to accurately measure their own strengths and weaknesses. QPR could have beaten that Newcastle team 5-0. Liverpool have the right parts in some places, but could still do with cutting out some of the chaff and somehow stopping Suarez from acting like a rabid dog.
Newcastle should still be OK, provided they don’t slip below Villa. It looks more and more likely as the number of games to be played draws down to a minimum that Villa/Wigan on the final day will be the relegation decider, and I would actually back Wigan in that contest. They should have gotten more out of a lackadaisical Spurs outfit and are just the sort of team to raise their game late on in the season. Villa, from what I saw last Monday, are just terrible. QPR and Reading finally confirmed their relegation yesterday, and thank God because they are two disgracefully poor teams, neither of which looked particularly driven to win the game.
Chelsea had a routine win against Swansea to confirm their third place position, and with a good result likely against an uncaring United side next week, they should be a good bet for one of the two remaining CPL places. Aside from Spurs on their good days and Manchester City, they’re the only side I would rank on a similar level to United. Swansea are suffering from a late season malaise as they struggle to find sufficient motivation to not just see the season out. It’s hard to play your best when you’re just swapping mid-table positions.
In would still back Spurs to leapfrog Arsenal. The game in hand, Bale, the defensive weakness of Arsenal, I think it will all add up by 38 games played. I think they deserve it more too.