Lyttle’s risks backfired, and momentum crashes down again
JUST when you think Sligo Rovers are gathering some sort of winning momentum, it all comes crashing down again. A disappointing first defeat in eight league games leaves Rovers again relying on others to drop points in their bid to stay in the Premier Division. After wins over Cork and Finn Harps, an all too humbling defeat to an average Galway United side again sorely outlined the shortcomings in this under-performing side.
Rovers weren’t allowed settle and find any sort of rhythm in the opening quarter. Galway’s relentless pressing of our full backs, Regan Donelon in particular was a persistent tactic throughout and bore fruit with their first and third goals. Rushed in their efforts to clear their lines, the Rovers rearguard never gave the ball players in midfield, limited in numbers as they were, a chance to get a hold of the ball and temper the speed of the game. Gary Boylan swung at fresh air in efforts to clear a ball from his side only to be rescued by the quick-thinking Donelon six minutes in, with Galway’s Padraic Cunningham eager to pounce and Shaun Patton glued to his front post. Ronan Murray tested both Patton and the sturdiness of the crossbar in quick succession before the Bit O’Red, totally against the run of play, hit the break.
Kyle Callan-McFadden could have had a hat-trick in this one such was his presence in the Galway area during set pieces. He took his goal well and while Rovers enjoyed a short spell of dominance, it didn’t last long enough to count a second time. Had Jamie McDonagh’s delicious first time volley dipped a little earlier, we would be talking about the goal of the season and potentially a different result. Relegation battles hang on such moments.
Galway dragged themselves back into the game minutes before the game. Boylan, who didn’t bring his form from the Harps game into this one, was turned far too easy allowing Gavan Holohan to square for the loose Marc Ludden to finish. Galway’s sheer determination and ability to produce chances handing them a rightful leveler against a disorganised back four. Ger Lyttle opted to keep faith with the same eleven who started the win over Harps six days previous. A risk which totally backfired. The same eleven struggled for large periods at Finn Park and were always likely to do the same in Galway. The difference that night was a slice of luck and the presence of Rhys McCabe who was largely anonymous on Friday. Our insistence on hoofing hit and hope balls towards the unfit looking Vinny Faherty didn’t help. I’d hoped that pre-historic tactic had gone out the door with Dave Robertson but it still features far too often in Rovers’ game.
It meant McCabe’s ability to dictate the game was limited. Of course the Scot can’t do it all by himself. Daniel Kearns has more than enough ability to have his own say in a game like that but yet again he was largely ineffective. He did find himself stranded away from play for the majority of the game but only seemed interested in getting involved on the odd occasion. Now 14 months at the Showgrounds, it’s tough to recall many games the Belfast man has had a real influence in.
Hindsight is everything and nothing in sport, but Lyttle must be pondering his team choice. Would the inclusion of Boylan and John Russell in the middle have made a difference? Tobi Adebayo-Rowling has struggled for form this year and is unlikely to have made a huge difference. But would even an hour of Raf Cretaro’s energy and burst of pace have been a preferred method up top? Vinny Faherty worked hard all night but was limited in his effect on proceedings. Either way, Rovers were beaten by a hungrier Galway side, more willing to make things happen rather than wait for other to create opportunities. Rovers’ second half showing was akin to the majority of second half performances this year. Everything is slower and more conservative. We wait for the other team to show their hand. Before you know it, Galway are two up and it’s too little too late.
Anything but a Shamrock Rovers win over St Pat’s in Inchicore last night (Monday) sees our future out of our hands. A draw would pull the Saints level on points with the Bit O’Red but would also hand Liam Buckley’s outfit the advantage due to their superior goal difference.
While a home win cements our place back in the drop zone. After a defeat such as Friday’s, the next game can’t come quick enough. This weekend sees the last four in the FAI Cup compete meaning another weekend off for the Bit O’Red before Saturday week’s visit of Bohemians. The Gypsies will still be in the hunt for the last European spots. There’s still some way to go in this skirmish to survive. Drogheda’s relegation will be all but confirmed if they fail to beat Shams on the same day while Harps’ recent poor form seems to have sealed their fate. A chance remains for another twist in the tale in who finishes third from bottom, but a win over an in-from Bohs today at least, looks unlikely.