February 22, 2012
Cliftonville came out on top in Monday night’s televised Setanta Sports Cup fixture with a 1-0 away victory against a ten-man St. Patrick’s Athletic to give the Reds a 2-0 aggregate victory. Having led 1-0 from the first leg consolidation was all that Cliftonville sought, so Tommy Breslin’s men will have been especially happy having come away with yet another victory over their League of Ireland counterparts.
St. Pat’s dominated the first half and had several opportunities to take the lead. John Russell came particularly close on 17 minutes, striking the post with a fantastic effort from the edge of the box. Christy Fagan also had a very impressive game for St.Pat’s and his movement and trickery caused the Cliftonville defence endless problems.
For all their pressure St. Pat’s failed to capitalise and when John Russell was sent-off for a dangerous lunge on 65 minutes, the tie appeared to be slipping away from the League of Ireland side.
Just four minutes later, Cliftonville duly punished St.Pat’s as Joe Gormley bundled in the rebound from six yards after Templeton’s initial effort from George McMullen’s free-kick.
With their effective 3 goal advantage (courtesy of the away goals rule) Cliftonville’s progression to the quarter final was assured and if anything, could have added to their lead before the game’s conclusion.
From a performance analysis perspective, SC1 Sports looked at the performances of two full-backs on display, Ger O’Brien, St. Pat’s right-back and Eamonn Seydak, Cliftonville’s left-back.
St. Pat’s began the game brightly, attempting to pass the ball out from the back and time and time again, Ger O’Brien proved to be an excellent outlet for his new club. Cliftonville were happy to stand-off St. Pat’s for much of the first half and their forward players certainly didn’t attempt to press on O’Brien when he was possession. Given this factor, O’Brien’s team mates used him as an effective “out-ball” in the first half and with his excellent passing ability; he frequently picked out Sean O’Connor and John Russell with long passes on the ground, from his own half.
O’Brien also proved to be dangerous when got into advanced areas in the Cliftonville half. On the 5 minute mark, the 27 year old won possession midway inside the Cliftonville half before shaping to provide an excellent cross into the box only for Christy Fagan to have edged narrowly offside.
In a defensive sense, O’Brien was untroubled by O’Carroll, who rarely posed a threat.
One criticism of O’Brien’s first half performance is that he didn’t drive into the space being left by Cliftonville enough. This is more of a systematic criticism than a direct criticism of O’Brien as Russell and O’Connor often pulled off to show for the ball in deep areas. This meant that the early pass was often the most pragmatic option.
O’Brien had a much quieter second half for a number of reasons. The game was scrappier and there was no real rhythm or pattern to the play. Cliftonville also enjoyed significantly more possession in the second half, both before and after the sending off. In addition, more of St. Pat’s play came from the other channel, through Ian Bermingham and Jake Kelly.
After going a goal down, O’Brien showed more of a willingness to get forward, yet was still on hand to clear Ryan Catney’s shot off the line on 73 minutes.
By contrast, Eamonn Seydak had a much more difficult time in the early stages of the game as Cliftonville were under the cosh from the start. Whilst Ger O’Brien was used almost exclusively as an outlet for St. Pat’s attack, Seydak was used almost exclusively as a defender.
Although it could be said that Seydak got out of jail at times in a positional sense in the early stages, as the game progressed, he became more comfortable. He showed a fierce competitive edge throughout and on 34 minutes he made a great challenge on John Russell, as the St. Pat’s midfielder bore down on goal. Sometimes his competitive edge got the better of him and on 37 minutes he was booked for a dangerous tackle on Sean O’Connor.
It wasn’t until the 40th minute that Seydak got his first real opportunity to maraud down the left-hand side linking up well with O’Carroll before sending a cross into the St. Pat’s penalty area. In what had otherwise been an unproductive half for Cliftonville (in an attacking sense) this was one of their brighter moments.
Cliftonville were much more positive in the second half, and despite having a quiet start to the period, as time wore on Seydak showed an eagerness to get forward. Particularly after Russell’s sending off, Seydak used the ball extremely effectively in his opponents’ half, showing keenness to keep possession, as Cliftonville looked to kill the contest.
Seydak also took a number of Cliftonville’s set pieces. His delivery from these was generally good with the ball being played into dangerous attacking areas. Seydak also defended well from St. Patricks’ set-pieces, normally dealing with his man comfortably and on the one occasion that he was beaten in the air by Kenny Browne, he did enough to ensure that he put the St. Pat’s defender off.
Image from BBC Sport NI