Monday 5 December 2016

Steven Reid: Average display but great result maintains momentum in group

Published 07/10/2016 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

It wasn't pretty but we got there in the end and at this early stage of the group, the result is far more important than the performance.

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It took a moment of brilliance from Seamus Coleman and that was a real captain's moment. There was an element of luck to his goal but you make your own luck and, on the balance of play in the second half, we deserved the win.

Seamus has been given the armband for this qualifying campaign and he really stepped up when it mattered most. It's difficult to underestimate how important last night's three points might turn out to be.

He found it difficult to get forward in the first half but then again, so too did our attacking players but he came into his own in the second half.

He has developed into one of the best right-backs in the Premier League and I can see him being a very good captain. We missed each other on the international scene but he has always come across as one of the quieter members of the squad and that isn't necessarily a bad thing as captain.

I've played for all sorts of captains and just because Seamus isn't roaring and shouting at people on the pitch, doesn't mean he isn't an effective leader.

Garry Flitcroft was similar when I played at Blackburn. He was never a ranter or a raver like, say, Barry Ferguson but he had an aura and a presence about him and I see that in Seamus as well.

In many ways, Roy Keane was the same. He would be very vocal at training and on the pitch but in the dressing-room, he was a calming influence. Believe it or not, I don't remember Roy really tearing a strip off anybody in the dressing room pre- or post-match - that was more his style on the pitch.

It's clear that Seamus sees himself as one of the senior members of the squad now but we cannot rely on just him. I know it's a bit of a cliché but we need more than one captain on the pitch. Guys have to step up to the plate.

Last night's kind of game can often be difficult to play in. When it's not a sell-out and there's a half-full stadium, you need to give the fans something to get them off their feet and get the atmosphere going.

We've seen it plenty of times before in the past. A half-empty Aviva is a far cry from the days of a full Lansdowne Road. When you had the atmosphere behind you back then, it was a difficult place to go.

The first-half performance was underwhelming, to say the least. We were blessed to have gone into the break with the game still scoreless. That was certainly the only positive to take from it.

Georgia had the better of the possession and worryingly looked far more comfortable than we did on the ball. They looked far more likely to get a goal which was really disappointing.

They had a great passage of play that led to led to them hitting the crossbar and the post in a matter of seconds.

It was a really good flowing move - the kind of one I was expecting to see Ireland produce early on in order to set the tone. Instead, we sat back off Georgia and they dictated matters.

I spoke about it yesterday but teams struggle to live with our high intensity but we didn't see enough of that at all. Georgia slowed the game down and kept possession well and that really didn't suit us and what we wanted to do.

I was a little bit surprised that Martin O'Neill didn't stick with the tried-and-tested centre-half pairing of John O'Shea and Richard Keogh but you couldn't really have any complaints with the changes that he made.

Aggressive

The second half was much better and I have no doubt that Martin and Roy would have had a few choice words for the lads at the break.

We were far more aggressive and didn't allow them to settle. I think we showed them far too much respect in the first half.

I know Martin was reluctant to say it before the game but last night was a must-win game. So too is Sunday's game in Moldova.

It's no good getting a point at home to the lesser nations and I think that would have been the message at half-time.

Robbie Brady stepped up and James McClean came into the game more and more. He delivered some excellent crosses and got on the end of some from the opposite side. He was very unlucky not to score.

The squad depth is likely to be tested on Sunday if Shane and Robbie are out. With Jeff suspended, I can see Glen coming in and doing a job.

Wes could come in for Robbie and, if needed, we could push Jon Walters up top. We are a light on strikers but we certainly have enough in us to go to Moldova and get another three points. Last night was an average performance but a great result.

Irish Independent

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