WHEN you’ve lost four consecutive games and haven’t kept a clean sheet all season, a 0-0 draw against Bray Wanderers, at the Carlisle Grounds, is a good result.
It wasn’t a pretty performance from City, but they did what they had to, to stop the rot. I prefer to look at the result more optimistic than pessimistic.
It was City’s first clean sheet of the season and they ended their losing streak against one of the strongest teams in the division. City are by no means the finished article, but the result is something to build on and should give players, who I would have thought leading into the game had little confidence, a bit more belief.
City starting 11 looked a very attacking line-up with four strikers on the pitch. I’ve been saying all along that going with two upfront was the way forward for City but playing 4-4-2 is difficult for players nowadays because they are so used to 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 and credit must go to the way Colin Healy’s side kept their shape and remained disciplined on Friday.
The Seagulls never hurt City from open play. City were happy to let Bray’s centre-backs pass the ball between them and when they tried to play into the midfield, Alec Byrne and Jack Baxter were quick to close down the Bray midfielders.
I’ve questioned the work-rate of the City players over the last few weeks, but I can’t argue against the effort the players put in against Bray and none more so than Darragh Crowley. The striker worked tirelessly for his team, always dropping in on Conor Clifford when City were out of possession to make up the extra man in midfield.
There were times when Cian Murphy and Cian Bargary would drift into a more central role when City were in possession, and when they lost it, and Murphy and Bargary were out of position, Crowley cleverly filled in.
His never-give-up attitude almost gave City the lead in the opening moments of the game, when Crowley chased Bray defender Andrew Quinn down robbed him in possession and laid the ball off to Jack Walsh who should have at least hit the target.
City’s best player on the night and was a player who had been left out in the cold in recent games was Gordon Walker. The former Cobh Ramblers player had not featured since the opening fixture against his former club and looked like a player with a point to prove.
He eased his way into the game by not taking any chances on the ball but as the game went on, we saw Walker’s confidence grow and he started to drive at the Bray defence in possession rather than just hit channels. He was excellent defensively and made some crucial interceptions from crosses into the box.
He’s an aggressive, mouthy player, who wound up the Bray players, which is good to see because it’s a young City side who are too quiet at times.
City have struggled at set-pieces this season and although they managed to keep a clean sheet, they were very fortunate not to concede against Bray from a set-piece when former City player Aaron Barry missed a header from six yards out in the first half. In City’s defence, the quality of delivery from Brandon Kavanagh made it much more difficult for them to defend set-pieces but it’s still an area of their game where City looked vulnerable and need to improve on.
Cian Coleman filled in at centre-back for the injured George Heaven and looked very comfortable. He also looked very natural in that position in the previous games he played there against Cabinteely and Cobh. Coleman’s centre-back partner Jonas Hakkinen struggled at times and I’m still unconvinced by him.
I do think he deserves the benefit of the doubt for now because it can’t be easy for him, moving to a new country and trying to settle in during a pandemic.
City will know they will have to improve if they want to get promoted. This was a positive result, but they will have to follow it up with a victory next week against Wexford Youths.