Sport Soccer

Tuesday 21 November 2017

McGeady refusing to settle for a draw against free-scoring Armenians

David Kelly

David Kelly

It is quite the irony that one of Aiden McGeady's better recent performances arrived on the narrowest pitch he has played on in his international career.

Last Friday, at the Estadio Comunal that doubles as Andorra's Subbuteo HQ, McGeady twisted and turned himself into a variety of contortions to ensure that the home defence was peppered with early crosses.

Somebody in the Irish media corps wondered whether McGeady would have anything controversial to say at yesterday's wind-whipped press briefing in Malahide; avowing to have a second successive display of consistent attacking intent might just hit the mark. In truth, as his angry manager has averred on several occasions since Friday night's risible exercise, McGeady was as culpable as the rest of his colleagues in turning off the tap once he had forced the second Irish goal in off Andorran defender Ildefons Lima.

This evening will require more sustained ambition.

Alas, with Trapattoni declaring that caution will be his watchword as he awaits his favourite international assignment -- the securing of a draw -- McGeady may see his wings clipped.

Given the selection of his full-backs, McGeady will be deployed more probably as an auxiliary wing-back should the predictably early mirage of attacking intent fail to secure a goal against the group's surprise packets.

"It's hard to describe it like that," he says when asked about Armenia's status as the proverbial banana skin. "Potential banana skin applies to smaller teams and I suppose after the first game, when we beat them, they're a team we should be beating every game. But just look at how they've surprised everyone. They're top scorers in the group by a long way. There's no room for complacency, they're obviously a very good team."

To be fair, McGeady has disguised the personal turmoil of being away from his two-week-old first child with a competitive application which augurs well; albeit he remains unhappy that he has not been automatically rewarded with what would have been only his second goal in 43 international games.

"Of course I would like to score more goals, I am still hoping to get that goal. The only people who seem to think that I didn't score it is you guys."

Unhelpfully, we refer him to the TV evidence.

"I don't know, maybe we will see it on the programme before the match tonight. But definitely, yes, I would like to get more goals, obviously. A lot of my first caps were fleeting appearances so it's been in the last half of the caps that I have started to play regularly."

In fact, he has established himself as a fixture in this campaign.

"I'm happy with my contribution to this campaign," avers the 25-year-old, who has clearly benefited from his move to Spartak Moscow from the suffocating Celtic goldfish bowl.

"But the main thing is that we win this game and get into the play-off and qualify. I have played in every single game in this campaign and that is what I wanted to do from the offset.

"I am just glad I have cemented my place in the team. That's what I wanted to do. Our season runs to May although we have a break in November. I was out for the best part of three months during the summer with injury so I am only back. I feel good at the moment and really fit and have been back playing since the Russia game. So I feel good."

Trapattoni was at pains to stress that this evening's task will be as stern a test of his team's maturity as at any stage in his stewardship, particularly given the delicate circumstances where the team know beforehand that a draw will suffice to establish a play-off berth.

"I can't remember if I've played in a game like that, when you just need a draw," he admits. "I don't think so. But there's no difference. You go into every game looking to win, never looking to draw, to just get by.

"Certainly that's the way I play football anyway. And I'm pretty sure every other player is the same.

"I try not to think about Paris because the memory is still painful. Ideally, it would have been great to qualify this time without the drama of a play-off but if that's the way it's going to be, so be it. But first we've got to do a job tomorrow night."

With his regular captain absent, there will be as much pressure on the suppliers before the spotlight switches to the four strikers on duty.

"The likes of Long and Cox and Keogh want to have a chance. This time, one of them will get it," said McGeady. "We don't want to be coming off the pitch without having made it to the play-offs."

Irish Independent

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