In this week’s “Trap Door”, Aaron Rogan assesses the weekend performances of squad ahead of one of the biggest weeks in Irish football history.
Goals will be key over the next 9 days and Giovanni Trapattoni will have had mixed feelings after the latest Premier League matches. For the first time in a long time, Ireland has a plethora of Premier League strikers to call on, however with two of those out through suspension and injury it was left to the back up to show their worth.
Newcastle United’s Leon Best has been in fine form so far this season and was called into the squad on Thursday due to Roy Hodgson’s confirmation that Shane Long is “way off being fit to play a football match.
However the former Nottingham Forest joined the list of Irish strikers whose fitness will concern Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of next weekend’s Euro 2012 play offs with Estonia as he picked up toe and groin injuries in Saturday’s 2-1 over Everton and will need to be assessed during the week.
In the absence of the suspended Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane, who scored and hit the post in LA Galaxy’s 3-1 MLS cup semi final win over Real Salt Lake, will likely be partnered with West Brom’s Simon Cox or Stokes’ Jonathon Walters – neither of whom had much impact as their sides succumbed to heavy defeats.
Midfielder Glenn Whelan was also largely ineffective as Stoke lost 5-0 to Bolton and was taken off with 20 minutes remaining.
Whelan’s midfield partner Keith Andrews was played on the left side of midfield in Ipswich’s 3-2 loss to Doncaster while Aiden McGeady continued his good form for Spartak Moscow, scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with rivals Dynamo.
Trap’s other first choice winger Damien Duff was frustrated as Fulham couldn’t get peg back Spurs, his Craven cottage team mate Stephen Kelly came on as a second half sub in the match to little effect.
James McCarthy got in some final preparations for his role in the play-offs by warming the bench for all of Wigan’s loss to Wolves, while Stephen Hunt had a typically busy afternoon.
The Waterford man could have had a first half penalty but chose to stay on his feet before giving away one later in the game for a clumsy challenge, Hunt was then involved in two of Mick McCarthy’s side’s goals – including substitute Stephen Ward’s.
The other wide man in the squad Seamus Coleman gave Trap some vindication for his decision to not play the highly rated player, he was clearly off the pace in Everton’s loss – looking uncomfortable when on the left and not much better on the right, the Sligo man let large stretches of the game pass him by and rarely offered cover for his fullbacks.
Shay Given and Richard Dunne both played the full game in Aston Villa’s win over Norwich while Wes Hoolahan was taken off after 76 minutes as Norwich chased the equaliser.
Given’s understudy Kieran Westwood impressed with a solid performance against Man United on his full Premier League debut for Sunderland including a stunning double save in the second half.
John O’Shea didn’t feature and is looking increasingly unlikely to return against Estonia as he struggles to recover from a hamstring strain he picked up against Aston Villa last weekend.
Neither Leicester’s Sean St Ledger nor Leeds’ Darren O’Dea played any part in Sunday’s 1-0 win to Leeds, while Andy Keogh was involved in much of the winning side’s attack.
Other defender Paul McShane also sat out Hull’s loss to West Ham.
Keith Fahey played the full ninety for Birmingham as they lost to a 75 minute goal from substitute Noel Hunt.
Good day for Stephen Hunt, the super sub can’t but help have caught the eye in a typically energetic and effective performance
Bad day for Seamus Coleman, though much of his praise is warranted he is yet to show over a decent period what he has to offer to Trap’s system
It’s only a matter of time before Anthony Pilkington gets an Ireland call up, the Norwich winger once again catching the eye with a goal for Norwich.