Saturday’s game was as they say, definitely a game of two halves. The wind was a major factor and it affected the game for both teams. Downpatrick kicked into the wind in the first half. The boys were given certain instructions on how to play football for the first period.
Saturday 28th March – Lisburn Invitational Junior League
Downpatrick FC 3 v Lisburn Rangers 1
It took the boys at least ten minutes to come to grips with a strong wind, but, this was due to the opposition constantly using the long ball tactic. The boys began to control midfield and were spraying the ball out wide into the channels, this allowed the wingers to play with some freedom and attack the full backs. With a little more luck and ingenuity, the final pass went awry and the play broke down. Each player carried out their role with great application and they worked hard as a unit to prevent the opposition from gaining any ground.
Both teams were limited to two shots in the half. Both had one shot on target and one off target. Fintan Canavan pulled off a good save to keep the game level. The boys were beginning to dominate the game and they had the majority of possession. On one such attack, they played some nice football with a couple of split passes which allowed the ball to come through John Patterson, John Hill, Ben Curran and down the right wing for Callum Shields. He ran onto the ball and he put a cross into the box. The ball came to Nathan McShane just inside the six yard box, who controlled the ball, but, he hit the top of the crossbar.
Half-time: Downpatrick FC 0 – 0 Lisburn Rangers.
The half-time team talk was positive and the boys were very resolute. With some better finishing and decision making, the score could have been different. This was the message for the second half.
The boys began in earnest and they continued to dominate the play. They were controlling midfield with John Patterson and Ben Curran providing battling displays and fortitude to break up opposition play and create attacking play for Downpatrick FC. Lisburn Rangers were getting opportunities themselves. Some poor decision making and individual errors by some players allowed the opposition to attack our back line. It was on one of these attacks that Fintan Canavan cleared the ball long, with the wind behind him it carried at least sixty yards, Callum Shields chased down the ball and got control of the ball inside the box and shot from the right 14 yards out and scored in the far corner, (1-0), 8th minute Second Half.
The impetus and the confidence was firmly in Downpatrick’s hands. The goal released the shackles and the boys began to play with a lot more freedom. Paul Saville and Daniel Kelly were providing good link up play along the left, as we’re John Hill, John Patterson and Ben Curran on the right. It was wave after wave of attack. Again the final ball was missing at times, either through holding on to the ball too long, too many touches or the wind carrying the ball away.
Another attack led to a corner, Ben Curran out a great delivery in the box, the ball came to Nathan McShane at the back post, he controlled the ball and fired in a left foot shot, (2-0), 15th minute Second Half.
Lisburn Rangers were continuing to try and play football, Fintan Canavan made a save. He himself had a shot at goal, it travelled the full length of the pitch and bounced over the crossbar. Andy McCoubrey was making good defensive headers, whist Ben Campbell controlled the defence and his awareness of the play was tremendous.
Injuries were a major player today, and with some tactical decisions from the management, the players were moved around in different positions. At this point James McAleenan was put up front, he had several opportunities to score. He hit the post and the Lisburn Rangers goalkeeper pulled off a fantastic double save to deny a goal.
The third goal came from a corner. Another fantastic delivery from Ben Curran, who drove the ball to the back post, where Callum Shields rose and headed the ball into the back of the net, (3-0), 23rd minute Second Half. The midfield of Rory Anderson, John Patterson, Paul Saville and Ben Curran began to tire, they lost there shape which allowed the opposition to take control of the play.
The boys were working hard, but, could not gain the upper hand. This put pressure on the back line and due to changes in personnel allowed Lisburn Rangers to attack with some fluidity. On one such attack, the drove down the left wing and two missed tackles allowed the winger to put the ball into the box, tackles inside the box were also missed and this allowed the opposition to score, with twenty seconds to go (3-1), Second Half. The final whistle blew.
Full-time: Downpatrick FC 3 -1 Lisburn Rangers
Today’s performance showed desire, determination, controlled pressure, creative play and an ability to play in adverse weather conditions. In saying this the boys, decision making, holding onto the ball too long and taking too many touches created difficult play of their own doing at times. I am not trying to take a way from what was controlled, resolute play that demanded strong physical and mental attitudes from the players to get them through the match.
I was proud in the play from the boys.
The referee should also be commended on his performance. He controlled the game well and marshalled both teams, especially with some strong challenges and verbalisation from the opposition, in difficult weather conditions.
We are now entering the business end of the season and the boys are now having to deal with more adversity than is expected. Before a ball had been kicked the boys had to deal with extra pressure due to illness, injury and individuals choosing to play other codes of sport. This left the team with a panel of twelve players. I am not trying to dictate which sport a child should be playing, but, other codes of sport and teams are also applying pressure on each of our players. We all have selfish needs, and as in in football it is all about decision making.
As with Saturday’s game it was evident that we had players who were exhausted and fatigued and were not able to play at their optimum levels. If this continues then the players will burn themselves out and will not be able to represent any team or code of sport. As responsible adults and providers of sport, we need to take stock of specific criteria that will let individual players represent different codes of sport that benefits all concerned. If we do not, then we are all guilty and neglectful in our duty to protect each child and what we proposed at the beginning of the season.