Friday 20 April 2018

Steven Reid: Boys in green can draw real comfort from second-half showing against rising force

What an encouraging start to 2013 from a young Ireland side, but I expect Giovanni Trapattoni to turn to his reliables for next month's trip to Sweden.

The Polish side who visited Lansdowne Road are a coming force in the game who have a couple of world class players in their team, like Robert Lewandowski, but the boys in green can draw real comfort from their second-half display.

The World Cup campaign is likely to come down to the back-to-back games against Sweden and Austria and, while I felt Wes Hoolahan had a real impact off the bench with his goalscoring cameo, Robbie Keane will be the man at the tip of the triangle in Stockholm.

We saw in the first half, when Ireland's midfield was overrun and failed to link defence and attack, that we need an extra body between the two. Robbie can play that role and – although the Norwich man took his goal well after an outstanding pass from Jeff Hendrick on his debut and offers something different – I believe the Italian manager will opt for his captain behind my West Brom team-mate Shane Long against the impressive Swedes.

Behind him, I believe that Keith Andrews will come into the midfield and it will be one of Glenn Whelan or James McCarthy alongside last year's player of the year award winner.

Keith gives you that extra bite and impetus and, as long as he recovers from his injury, I think Trapattoni will call on a player who has become a trusted lieutenant.

I might be biased as I share a dressing room with him, but Longy showed last night –on limited service at times – that he has the pace to trouble defenders and that is not an attribute that a lot of players we have possess.

Although he and Conor Sammon lived off scraps for much of the first half and the partnership didn't function well as a result, I still feel that he will trouble defenders and hold the ball up well for us.

Another to impress was Greg Cunningham who has endured a difficult time since moving to Bristol City.

The Galway man came in and marshalled Polish captain Jakub Blaszcykowski brilliantly and we saw last summer at the European Championships how important the Borussia Dortmund winger is to their cause. There are not a lot of players with their hands up for the left back berth and I was impressed with his display.

It was only a friendly, but getting back to winning ways and starting the calendar year with a win was important.

Beating Poland and keeping a clean sheet will do wonders for the confidence of young players like Cunningham, Ciaran Clark and McCarthy.

I thought Paul McShane did well, while Paul Green added some impetus after half-time when he came on for Glenn Whelan.

The first half was disappointing, but David Forde can be happy with his night's work. The Millwall goalkeeper's kicking may have gone awry at times, but he made two crucial saves when one-on-one with Lewandowski.

Shay Given is potentially coming back next month and I have stated my preference for my old team-mate to get the nod, but Forde did well.

The second half saw a much improved Irish display, the tempo was increased and the bite was back in the tackle. Having spent so much time without the ball, it was good to see the wingers – so starved of possession before half-time – get a chance to attack. Robbie Brady whipped some good balls in, while James McClean attacked his defenders well.

It was a shame we didn't see more of them before half-time and we saw the value of the extra man when Hoolahan replaced Long with half an hour remaining.

He took his goal well, but it was a great piece of magic from Hendrick. What a way to mark his first cap.

The stadium was full of Polish fans, but it was good to get back to winning ways on home soil.

Ireland need to get back to the old days when Lansdowne Road was a fortress.

Irish Independent

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