Sport Soccer

Monday 1 May 2017

Trap needs to shuffle pack for tests ahead

1 CENTRAL AUTHORITY: Once more, Ireland's deficiencies in the central hub were exposed by pitting two against three in the engine room.

Wounded fatally by Russia at home, Ireland at least managed to escape with the three points by the skin of their teeth this time. A reappraisal of 4-4-2 is urgently required, as well as an urgent change in personnel.

Too often, one half of the partnership is rendered dysfunctional; on Saturday it was Glenn Whelan who dipped far below the required standards, while Darron Gibson faded after a promising start. Tomorrow is the perfect opportunity to expand these horizons.

2 GOAL-DEN CHANCE LOST

Let's hope goal difference does not decide Ireland's qualification fate. We all know by now that the hapless Edin Nuredinoski "had a Macedonia". Why, then, wasn't he tested at any time in the second half, never mind the limited assaults that occurred following Ireland's creditable early harvest?

It was quite clear, to his baffled manager at least, that the 'keeper was perilous when the ball was above him, in front of him ... in fact, pretty much anywhere wherein he and the football were in close proximity. Ireland could and should have won this game much more comfortably had they the courage of conviction to maintain their pressure on the 'keeper. Giovanni Trapattoni ruefully admitted as much.

3 SHOOT TO KILL

Aiden McGeady had become thoroughly depressed at scanning through his accumulation of international match programmes to find a duck egg perched where his goals tally should be.

That changed, belatedly, on Saturday evening after just 84 seconds when he enthusiastically accepted the frustrated promptings of his manager to cut inside and test his explosive shooting power.

Helped by a munificent 'keeper, McGeady profited. Gibson did so too, cleverly ensuring he rammed the timid target from his free-kick, confident that his captain would sniff the rebound.

Damien Duff also tried his luck but alarmingly, as the team's authority diminished, so too did their confidence when shooting from distance as they struggled to create field position for repeat chances.

4 DEFENSIVE GAMBLE

With all the focus on the three competitive debutants in the Ireland backline, the fragility of Richard Dunne's mind and body was somewhat overlooked in the build-up and ultimately both were exposed on Saturday night.

Whatever Robbie Keane's quibbles about the system that bans players for two yellow cards in a 10-game campaign, Dunne's error rules him out of the crucial return clash with Macedonia.

And it was noticeable, both in being out-run by the hardly lightning quick Goran Pandev, and, initially, when struggling to rotate his considerable frame to prevent Macedonia's goal, that Dunne's lack of match fitness was the crippling liability, not the callowness of his defensive colleagues.

5 THE LONG VIEW

Kevin Doyle's potentially season-ending knee injury (right) may have career-changing consequences for a former Irish manager if his absence contributes to Mick McCarthy's difficult task of maintaining Wolves' Premier League status.

The effects on the current Irish boss remain open to debate. Should Doyle miss the rest of the season, he will not play in Skopje and Shane Long, it would appear, would be favourite to partner Robbie Keane.

However, it was noticeable that Ireland tended to wallow in the comfort of the longer game, naturally, given Long's physique. With limited options up front, he may operate on his own tomorrow as part of a new formation.

Irish Independent

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