IT was a poor decision by referee Marc Lynch to send Cork City striker Jack Walsh off in their 3-1 defeat against Shelbourne.
Yet even if City kept 11 men on the pitch the outcome of the game wouldn’t have been any different Yes, the score was 1-1 when Walsh received his marching orders but even before the former Avondale player was sent off, it was a game that Shelbourne were in control of.
There was an inevitability that they would go on to win the game once they equalised.
City must have thought their luck had changed when Lynch awarded them a very soft penalty after Cian Coleman went to ground very easily from a push by Shels defender Maxium Kougoun. Once Dylan McGlade converted from the spot, I expected to see confidence grow in the City team but that never happened.
It was almost like they were surprised they managed to go in front.
Gearoid Morrissey came close to adding a second when his deflected header hit the crossbar but that’s as good as it got for the City captain.
I can understand when the team is down to 10 men it’s difficult for any player, but even when City had 11 on the pitch, Morrissey was dispossessed on several occasions because he was too slow to move the ball. Of course, there could also be there was a lack of options for him to pass the ball to, so he had to hold onto it.
I expected Morrissey this season to be like Jack Byrne was with Shamrock Rovers last season. Byrne was head and shoulders above any player in the league and it seemed games were too easy for him and I expected that it would be the same for Morrissey in the First Division but so far, he has struggled.
With modern football, it seems to be the norm that teams play out from the back, but I don’t understand why teams persist in doing it when they don’t have the players to do so. City try and play out from the back and it played right into Shels' hands with their high press.
Time and time again in the first half City lost possession in their own half from trying to play their way out of trouble and Shels should have scored more than just the one goal in the first half. City did cause Shels problems when they went direct to Walsh and Coleman with good service.
The one player City couldn’t afford to get sent off was Walsh. When balls were going long to him, he was holding things up and bringing players into play.
Walsh won the majority of his headers against Kougoun and Ally Gilchrist but once he was dismissed and the Shels centre-backs were up against Darragh Crowley and then Cian Murphy, they were too physical for the City players. Crowley and Murphy were ever only going the cause the Shels defence problems with balls into space behind the Shels defence but all they were getting were fight balls against Kougon and Gilchrist and they were never going to win that battle.
I thought it was a strange decision for City manager Colin Healy to change his formation at half-time to 5-3-1 when they had coped quite comfortably for the last 15 minutes of the first half playing with 10 men in a 4-4-1 formation. Coleman has been one of the positives for City this year and is exactly the type of player – someone who will run all over the pitch - you need in your midfield when your team is down to ten men.
Hakkinen looks very composed in possession but he got caught under the ball on a number of occasions and endured a difficult night against Shels striker Michael O’Connor. Out of the two centre-backs, Heaven is the more physical, and Hakkinen the more technical, and the U21 international will find it will happen a lot this season that more physical strikers will play more on him than on Heaven.
There’s a long way to go and the play-offs were probably City’s aim this season and with so many play-off spaces up for grabs it’s not unthinkable to see City finish in the top five, but performances and results need to start improving.