AN early goal will be key for how difficult or easy this game will be for City.
Athlone are a side with nothing to play for and if they were to concede early in the match; their players will be more likely to reduce their effort for the rest of the game. The Athlone players will be looking forward to playing City at Turner’s Cross.
It’s not often those players get to play in front of a big crowd. The atmosphere is something that they will relish playing in. However, that attitude would change if they were to go behind early.
Their thoughts will change from ‘what an wonderful opportunity to display their talent in front of thousands of people’ to ‘this could be a long evening’. They could change their approach from playing as a team to playing as a group of individuals.
Athlone’s players will at first be approaching the game with the mindset of getting a famous victory but if they go behind, the players could very well believe that all that is important now is that they play well as an individual and the final result isn’t as significant.
Playing as an away player at Turner’s Cross is always a difficult task no matter what the circumstances. This City side is obviously a better team than Athlone, the table is proof of that.
The only way Athlone could cause a surprise is if they play as a team and not as individuals. By playing as a group of individuals; players will lapses on their defensive duties because they believe that it is only what they do offensively that will grab people’s attention. Players will not track runners and will switch off defending set-plays.
Of course, whether they score an early goal or not, this is still a game that City should win because they have a better group of players. Often when it is a game consisting of top versus bottom in the league, the outcome is dependent on the team at the summit of the table turning up with the right attitude.
Teams can gain a false sense of entitlement believing that all they need to do is show up and the opposition will roll over which can lead to complacency and a shock result. What cannot be questioned of this City team is the attitude the players go into every game with. Yes, they have not been at their best in recent weeks, but I would put that down to nerves not attitude.
When I watch these players, what I always notice is how hard they work for one another.
Every player can have a poor game but even if a City player does; they are making sure they are still working hard for the team and that is why they are winning games even when they are not at their best.
The players need to deal with their nerves which can be a very hard thing and probably the only way that is going to happen is if they increase the gap between Galway United and themselves to a more comfortable one. That way the players know that even if they do slip up in a game or two that they will still be top of the table.
Colin Healy opted to go with 4-3-3 against Cobh Ramblers in their last outing but even though the City manager admitted to liking playing with a back-four, I do see the former Celtic player reverting back to his usual 3-5-2 formation.
Ruairi Keating was the goal-scoring hero against Ramblers and the former Galway United player has made himself the number one striker at the club.
I think many felt that the arrival of Louis Britton meant Keating might be the one to miss out between Britton, Cian Murphy and himself but City’s top scorer continues to impress and it is now a case of who plays with Keating.
At this time, I believe Keating’s partner will be Murphy and Healy will be hoping they can add to their tally against Athlone.