Wednesday 23 January 2019

Lyttle left to bemoan 'sloppy' second half performance

David Goulden

Sligo Rovers manager Ger Lyttle bemoaned his side's second half performance against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night, describing it as 'sloppy'.

Goals from Dylan Watts and Gary Shaw sentenced the Bit O'Red to their third defeat in five games as Rovers failed to build on their win over Bohemains a fortnight previous.

Lyttle says he was pleased with aspects of an opening half in which David Cawley struck the crossbar, but says his side lapsed in the second 45.

"I thought we controlled the game in the first half", he told the Sligo Champion.

"But in the second, we didn't do the things we were doing well. We were sloppy and some of our passing, especially from the back, we gave away the ball far too easy.

"We played some nice stuff at times. I said to the boys before the game that I didn't want a moral victory.

"I don't want to come down here, play well and get beat. There were positives but at the end of it we didn't win the game and that's disappointing."

Former Shams man Mikey Drennan lead the line for the visitors and was responsible for Rovers' only real chance in the second half.

But Lyttle conceded that his team's shape, or lack of it, didn't help matters.

"Our distances were all wrong between the lines. Our midfielders were too deep and on top of our defenders and that creates a massive gap between the middle and Mikey.

"He's having to fight for balls on his own and come back and that meant we were under the cosh. There were a couple of things that didn't go the way we wanted in the second half. But that's the nature of the game."

The Dubliners hit the lead on 66 minutes when Watts registered his first goal for his new club.

Shamrock Rovers supporters aren't known for being the most patient breed and Lyttle says their opener was enough to keep the home fans behind the Hoops, which drove them on.

"You have to take your chances and not concede. But we did and when they go one up they get the crowd behind them.

"I thought that was their plan, to keep the crowd behind them. That gave them a lift. I think we've lost the game as much as they've won it."

Rovers were reduced to ten men between the goals. Seamus Sharkey shown his second yellow having tangled with Aaron Bolger.

With attackers Raffaele Cretaro and Lewis Morrison on the bench, Lyttle decided to keep four at the back by introducing centre half Patrick McClean, while withdrawing goal threat Drennan. A decision which puzzled much of the travelling support.

Ger explains: "We were down to ten men and down a defender so we've had to make that decision. We've put Paddy on and tried to be brave and went with two up there and went for it. We finished the game with the ball in their half and we're on their backs but it didn't work out.

"Liam Kerrigan and Darren Collins gave us fresh legs and no fear.

"That's what you get from the younger lads. Liam is doing well for the under 19s and Darren scored during the week against Pat's and they both have a chance of making it.

"We thought with the way Liam can come off the wing he could have an affect. There were times in the first half when we were asleep when the ball came across from our wide men on the blind side. So we thought Liam might be able to pull across and be on the end of one of those balls.

"We went two up top with Darren up there and a diamond behind him. We thought we'd try and flood the midfield, get two up top and just leave the wide areas.

"Raff didn't train on Friday through illness so that's why he wasn't involved.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If Darren comes on and bangs one in then you're manager of the month.

"On Lewis, we're working with him at the minute on his fitness and sharpness and that's something we need to continue with.

"If there's young lads on the bench who can ask questions of Shams, then I'll use them. I don't care who's on the bench. So these things work and sometimes they don't."

Lyttle also touched on the possibility that the cancellation of the Dundalk game ten days ago, due to the Lilywhites' European games, affected momentum following the win over Bohs.

"I think it played its part", he considered.

"It was disappointing because we were coming off the back of a good win and you want to get back on the horse and go again. We played a friendly but it's not the same. The game being called off was baffling for me. But we can't make excuses. We had a week to prepare."

Midnight tonight (Tuesday) marks the closure of the summer transfer window.

Rovers are currently without a recognised right back in the squad owing to Gary Boylan's long term injury.

The club will be allowed sign any unattached players that may become available after tonight, but Lyttle has all but given up on hope of adding any extra bodies before this weekend's games with Derry City.

"If it happens, it happens. We're looking at one or two but I think we're done", he said.

Rovers travel to the Brandywell for their league meeting with the Candystripes on Friday before welcoming Derry to Sligo for Monday's EA Sports Cup semi-final (kick-off 5pm).

For Ger, it's very much 'first thing's first' as Rovers look for a repeat of June's win over Kenny Shiels' side.

"It's a cliche, but the focus is on Friday. That's the most important for us now.

"We need to win games and that's the bottom line and we've a massive game coming up with Derry on Friday. We have to go there and try and win.

"Yes, we've done well up there before and it was probably our best performance of the season. We seem to have an OK record against them but Derry are a good team who had a good result on Friday night.

"It's going to be tough for us but we'll give it everything and hopefully we get the rub of the green."

Sligo Champion