AUL Premier A
In an era were ‘philosophy’ is one of football’s buzz words Sheriff showed the approach that really counts on Friday night.
Some pro teams and managers are style of play mad, but Alan Reilly seems to value winning over all.
On Friday Sheriff were not too humble to ditch a passing approach they are known for against a youthful Hardwicke in this Premier A clash and as a result returned to winning ways at Clontarf.
In the opening 30 minutes the home side literally bullied and out fought their opponents to work their way into a two goal advantage.
Sheriff by passed a midfield full of creative players such as Stephen Murphy and Darren Dunne and went as direct as can be early on. The hosts also pressed and tackled aggressively. Indeed the FAI Junior Cup champions turned the game into a scrap obviously believing it was the greatest way of success.
The tactic worked initially as Sheriff opened up a two goal lead and looked odds on to add more.
However, Hardwicke’s showed real balls after the turn, kept their passing and pace reliant approach throughout the second half, but added some bite. The approach started to reap rewards and they set up a tense finish by pulling one back from the spot with about 25 to go.
The visitors kept pushing for an equaliser and looked fresher over the final stages, but again Sheriff put the result before pride or style of play and saw the game out without concern as to how easy on the eye there approach was.
Hardwicke started with real verve and the exuberance of youth is evident in their approach.
However, it didn’t take long for Sheriff to show them who was boss. The Premier A title holders really began to bully their opponents and their physical approach began to reap dividends.
The high press made Hardwicke’s attempts to play from the back look suicidal, challenges were all made with a bite that unnerved the visitors and a team that more often than not works the ball from the back were more direct than and 1980’s Wimbledon side.
Not overly pretty, but it looked tactically brilliant at the time. It also reaped reward and after Mark Higgins had a shot well saved from distance after he collected a Jon Rock knock down the home side eventually took the lead.
Lee Featherson, whose work ethic was brilliant in the opening half, caused bother with a high press and as the ball looked set to trickle out for a corner Hardwicke elected to try and play. However, the wide player got a block on the end line, pounced on the fortunate bounce and feed Stephen Murphy, who cushioned home from eight yards with just over 10 minutes played.
Murphy was returning the favour just 7 minutes later as he picked up the second ball from another Rock aerial battle, bundled his way through one challenge and only to see a shot well saved. However, Featherson was on hand to finish off the rebound.
At that stage it looked like Hardwicke’s spirit was broken. To their credit they continued to try and play ball, but the press caused them trouble and they didn’t look to have the physical capabilities to play a long ball game.
Leon Hayes did force a save from Paul Lynch come set piece time, but Sheriff remained on top. Summer signing Featherson was particularly impressive down the right and should have added a second assist to his name at the very least before the break, but his team mates failed to capitalise on three brilliant run and crosses.
Hardwicke came out for the second half looking to pass from the back again, but their was a little more about them after the recess.
Physically they looked up for the challenge with the likes of Sean Kane and particularly Pato Oglesby ready to battle when needed.
The visiting side also showed why they are one of the divisions entertainers, with a real verve up top and do have players to get fans off their seats.
Hayes began to look a real danger down the left, but while the moved the ball and were adventurous in the final third Sheriff for the most part looked defensively sound.
However, after a period of relative parity in which Hardwicke moved the ball impressively the away team were given a massive confidence boost and a possible route back into contention.
Hayes, now playing left back whipped in another cross, it hit a Sheriff hand and the ref pointed to the spot. Top scorer Dean Byrne had to wait what seemed like an eternity to take it as a Sheriff player got treatment on the pitch, but he held his nerved and halved the deficit.
Hardwicke upped the gears further and it looked like they had a team of Ryan Giggs on the pitch on occasion. Any chance they got they dribbled at the home defence. For the most part Sheriff dealt with the pressure, but one brilliant Josh McMahon run past three would be challengers presented Jordon O’Reilly, whose uncle Rock was playing up top for Sheriff, with a chance to cross, his low delivery begged for a touch, but no one obliged.
Lynch then saved a near post shot from Byrne as Hardwicke flirted with equalising.
Under some pressure Sheriff shut up shop expertly and used their experience to kill the game off. Indeed the side, who drew with Donnycarney last time out, had the better of the chances late on and Murphy, Higgins and Dunne forced saves from the visiting net minder.