March 6, 2012
A late goal from David McDaid secured a 1-1 draw and more importantly a crucial away goal for Derry City in the first leg of their Setanta Cup Quarter Final tie against Linfield. Alan Blayney had been a virtual spectator up until that point as Derry failed to create any chances of real note against a formidable Linfield side.
Both sides appeared to change between 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 formation throughout the game. For Derry, McDaid and McLaughlin began the game up front, but McDaid often pulled out into a wide position, having McLaughlin at the tip of what was effectively a 4-2-3-1. Meanwhile, Jamie Mulgrew would often drop off Linfield’s attack the give the Blues an identical shape to Derry.
Linfield dominated the first half of the game. Robert Garrett and Jamie Mulgrew in particular impressed for the Blues who forced Derry to surrender possession repeatedly with their intense pressing.
On 12 minutes it was Linfield who took the lead after Peter Thompson deflected Billy Joe Burns’ shot passed Gerard Doherty.
Derry ended the first half positively however, and began the second half on the same vein as Linfield sat back and allowed Derry a significant portion of possession. Having failed to show any real signs of creativity in the opening half, few could have blamed Linfield for believing they could perpetuate this lack of inventiveness in the second half.
Irrespective of that, Linfield continued to have their chances, with Billy Joe Burns hitting the crossbar with a cross come shot on 67 minutes, before Gerard Doherty dived impressively at the feet of Peter Thompson in the 77th minute to deny the Northern Ireland international a clear scoring opportunity.
It was on 85 minutes that Derry City found the equaliser as Barry Molloy played a great ball to the back post where it found Stephen McLaughlin, who headed the ball back across goal to the unmarked McDaid, who finished clinically past Blayney.
Throughout the game, SC1 Sports monitored the performances of the two No.4’s. Derry City’s Barry Molloy and Linfield’s Michael Gault.
Molloy began the game in his familiar central midfield role alongside Ruaidhri Higgins. Whilst traditionally considered to be a tenacious spoiler, Molloy is also a very capable passer of the ball.
The early stages the game was frantic and Molloy struggled to find any passing momentum as Linfield’s pressing game proved to be extremely effective. The ball spent a significant amount of time in the air, a feature evidenced by the fact that in the first half alone, Molloy contest 11 headers, winning 8 of them. He also showed his tough tackling nature in the first half, as he won 4 out of the 6 he contested.
Linfield appeared to be getting a lot of joy down the flanks, particularly on the right-hand side through Philip Lowry and Jamie Mulgrew. In an attempt to annul this threat, Barry often provided cover in this area in order to reinforce the efforts of Dermot McCaffrey who is still adjusting to life at Derry City.
A key feature of Molloy’s performance was that he initiated the majority of Derry City’s attacks. On 25 minutes, Molloy played an incisive forward pass to David McDaid, who then found Patrick McEleney before the 19 year old’s shot was deflected over.
Again when Derry were finally able to string a succession of passes together in the latter stages of the first half it was Molloy who showed footballing intent, in getting the ball down and playing. This trend continued in the early stages of the second half.
On 72 minutes, Molloy crossed a great ball from deep which fell at the feet of Stephen McLaughlin at the back post, but the Donegal man shot wide of the target.
Then came Molloy’s most creative period on the game. On 84 minutes, Molloy received the ball in midfield before playing a defence-splitting through ball for Mark Farren, who never really got the ball under control as Alan Blayney collected it from his feet. Just one minute later however, Molloy played a superb cross to Stephen McLaughlin at the back post who headed back across goal where McDaid was on hand to provide Derry City with an equaliser.
One negative aspect of Molloy’s second half performances was that he missed four of his attempted tackles, all of which were fouls. He was extremely lucky to avoid a yellow card.
Essentially though, it was a night when Derry’s creative players created very little, whilst Barry Molloy – who is renown more for his industry and tenacity – was perhaps the most creative player on the pitch.
Gault adopted quite a similar role to Molloy as he played in the centre of Linfield’s midfield alongside Robert Garrett.
The game got off to a frantic start and so too did Gault, getting involved in much of Linfield’s build up play in the early stages. Linfield’s attacking intent could be seen through Gault in the 2nd minute as he drove with the ball from midfield, but could not find Mulgrew with his pass as the move progressed.
Whilst Gault was energetic and tenacious, he had a less influential effect than Robert Garrett, who deserves much of the praise for Linfield’s productivity from midfield in the first half. Off the ball, Gault was particularly impressive as he and Garrett in particular never allowed Derry to get their passing game going as they pressed Derry City effectively.
In the second half, Gault’s role as a protector of the back four was emphasised as Linfield dropped deeper. Gault was never caught ahead of the ball as he sought to ensure that Linfield kept it tight at the back. On 53 minutes, he did well to win the ball from Molloy in a 50/50, before finding Mulgrew in an attacking position with a first time pass.
It was quite interesting to watch the Linfield captain in this half as he was extremely disciplined, continually filled any gaps that emerged in the Linfield defence.
This meant that he was less involved in Linfield’s build-up play which in any case emanated mainly down the flanks. However when Linfield did attack, Gault continuously showed himself as an option in a holding midfield role and as a means from which to reset Linfield’s attacks. The degree to which his teammates underused him in this role was incredible. This factor is characteristic of the direct nature of Linfield’s attacks in the second half.
Throughout the contest, Gault was extremely impressive in the air, winning 9 out the 11 headers that he contested.
Image of Michael Gault is courtesy of BBC Sport NIThis entry was posted in League of Ireland, Performance Analysis. Bookmark the permalink. ← Paul Finlay and Monaghan Analysis The Michael Murphy Effect →