Tuesday, June 27, 2006

'EAMON, IT'S PAUL'

One of numerous currently circulating rumours relates to Eamon Zayed's impending switch to the nouveau-riche establishment of Drogheda United FC; and I believe it would not be unfair to say that such a move would be a boon to all concerned.

Bray Wanderers would be losing their striker in chief; though when I've seen him in the Seagulls' uniform this season he has participated with the enthusiasm of a blade sharpener facing his own execution...albeit this was during the lull in power at the Carlisle Grounds as Pat Devlin was passing his notebook on to Tony McGuirk...by all accounts little has changed. The player himself patently needs a change of jersey, he's out of contract at season's end, so they should sell now.

Some Bray fans may baulk at selling their top marksman as they flounder at the wrong end of the table, but the Drognoscenti willl be reaching for the seasoning in anticipation of Zayed's undoubted qualities being added to their list of ingredients. Critical and statistical analysis of the Louthmen's bite does not bode well for a league campaign. They have the ability to outplay any side on the island; their recent cup successes bear testament to this; but the step up from tough-nut cup competitors to serious league challengers requires squad depth and variety, consistency of performance, an ability to garner points in the face of adversity, blah blah blah, as a wise man once wrote.

Paul Doolin has fused many of these requirements into a young and talented group of players. There is no dearth of skill, professionalism and confidence in the camp - but a Bulgarian hotel porter, with whom I shared an escalator experience on the Black Sea coast recently, told me they need to score more goals. Yes, everyone knows!

Fabio has had one good goalscoring season for the men from United Park. He netted 14 times in the league as they marched to a 4th place finish in 2004. Outside of that his returns have been poor [7/8 goals a season] when viewed in the light of a determined league challenge. And he is their No.1 striker; Shane Barrett doesn't score freely, although he has an exceptional talent and can create openings for others with his terrifying speed. Mark Leech hasn't had a sustained run in the side, and I can only assume he's not 1st choice because his boss believes his other strikers carry a greater threat.

Which leaves Glen Fitzpatrick; an accomplished performer who has graced the likes of Shamrock Rovers and latterly Shelbourne in the Reds most recent title winning season. I'm a small admirer of his ability to control a ball, hold off defenders and bring others into the game. He provides an excellent attacking fulcrum, but he's no goal machine. I hadn't seen him play before this season and the evidence thus far suggests to me that he has a penchant for the extra touch.

Indeed, a report on the club's own website re. the crunch clash in Cork last Friday highlighted this habit. The writer referred to Fitzpatrick taking one touch too many when presented with a goalscoring opportunity. Drogheda succumbed, 3 points were lost in a single goal defeat and Cork landed a bodyblow on their fierce rivals.

On such cameos are leagues won and lost when the top sides meet. A supremely fit goalhungry stiker would have despatched the ball netwards in an instant; Doolo may well have called young Mr.Zayed again as the coach trudged Northeastwards last Friday night.

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