LSL Senior 1 Sunday
By Jonny Stapleton
IT took until 15 minutes after the scheduled kick off time to get the floodlights in John Hyland Park shining last night, but it took nigh on 60 minutes for St Francis to switch on and emerge from the shadow of a bright Greystones outfit.
Youcef Belhout proved the leading home light and in a 10 minute spell around the hour mark and finished brilliantly twice to ensure the hosts managed a share of the spoils despite producing one of their worsts displays of the seasons.
The point means the lights haven’t gone out either sides hopes of securing promotion, but considering they missed a number of chances, one guilt-edged at the death, Greystones strolled off the pitch sporting the body language of a team that just lost.
Once the lights came on and the game got underway it was third placed Greystones who looked the brighter. They had an air of invention, were eager to pass the ball and tried to set a high tempo. Darren Forsyth dropped into the hole picked some lovely passes, Carl Forsyth drove from midfield impressively and paul Bard provided an outlet down the right flank. However, bar a flash Paul O’Sullivan shot Stone’s failed to create any clear cut chances as their final ball let them down.
With sandwiches and tea post match Francis are one of the more welcoming clubs in the LSL, but they extended that welcoming onto the park in the first 25 minutes last night. The home side showed less respect for the ball than Roy Keane has for reputations and gifted it to the traveling side time and time again. Indeed so poor where the hosts in the middle of the park that the Francis line were threatening alterations 15 minutes shy of half time. Only Belhout seemed at the pace, the striker, who had two self created chances, looked dangerous every time he got the ball at his feet.
Having a footballing off day Francis eventually looked to their fighters to battle them back into the tie and after 30 minutes they started to bully Greystones. The Saints got a foothold, but only really threatened from Declan Smyth’s quality set pieces. Fittingly it was the visiting side who had the better chances at the end of the half as O’Sullivan forced a fine Paul Dowling save, before the keeper stopped Carl Forsyth and Bard in more routine fashion.
Greystones were told by their coaching staff, that if they held a beautiful game mantra and passed the ball at a high tempo they could roll over Francis and register a number of goals.
However, when their was nothing pretty about the opener when it finally arrived. When Carl Forsyth’s shot was deflected wide Greystones were afforded the opportunity to swing a the corner. The ball found its way to the back post and Darren Forsyth was somehow able to let the ball bounce, control it on his chest and finish at the second attempt all from six yards.
Lead by a centre half half whose schooling was certainly of the old variety, Craig Gardner, the Saints don’t usually concede in such a sloppy fashion, but their manager was more incensed by the rear guard action that followed.
Darren Forsyth was twice given the chance to double the advantage as Bard and and Declan Brennan were able to get in behind out wide and pick out a pass, but the strikers efforts were off target.
Francis finally made the changes they were flirting with from the first half and it paid immediate dividends. Smyth was pushed up from left back to left wing and a his neat pass enabled Belhout to finish left footed into the keeper’s left hand corner. It was a leveler from nowhere, but it lifted the hosts and it wasn’t long before they stole in front.
Another Belhout belter saw them go a goal to the good. This time the striker, who usually employs a left wing bert, beat a defender before finishing akin to his first into the corner with his left foot. Considering they were not at their best and missing a few players Francis elected it best to adopt a ‘what we have we hold stance’, but were undone by another corner just 5 minutes after going in front.
Again the ball reached the back post where O’Sullivan was afforded the time to drill back towards goal. The ball seemed to take a deflection en route to the net, but the striker was claiming the effort, his 19th of the season.
Greystones were not content with an away point and pushed on for a third in a bid to secure all three- and they could have won the game right at the death, but blew two chances. First Darren Forsyth was brilliantly rolled in by captain Stephen Dunne and strolled into the box with just the keeper to beat and with O’Sullivan in support.
Instead of squaring it or shooting he tried to round Dowling and blew the opportunity. Sub Greg Breslin then had a less guilt edged opportunity when he was given the freedom of the left flank in injury time, but fired over with the last kick of the game.
Greystones AFC: Craig Williams, Ciaran Byrne, Wayne Mahon, Larry Murphy, Ryan Matthews, Paul Bard, Carl Forsyth, Stephen Dunne, Paul O’Sullivan, Darren Forsyth, Conor Ferguson. Subs: Greg Breaslin, Luke Massey, Darren Robertson.
St Francis FC: Paul Dowling, Dean Brennan, Decaln Smyth, Craig Gardner, Karl Moore, Karl Delaney, Karl Keely, Gerard O’Gorman, Youchef Belhout, Carl Bateman, Jamie Hayden. Subs: Martin McGuinness, Derek Kavanagh, A McGuire.