CCFL Division 1
Stradbally Town 0
JAKE Comerford’s goal after only four minutes proved to be the difference between these two sides, on Sunday in Rossleighan Park, as Portlaoise overcame a gallant effort from Stradbally Town to take all three points on offer. Both sides came into the game in mixed form and the win was enough to move Portlaoise ahead of Stradbally in the Division 1 standings.
The decisive goal came from the game’s first attack. Manni Obadeyi swung a free in from the right which Comerford met at the back post for a simple tap-in. Stradbally, not for the first time this season, failing to deal with long balls played across their box.
Portlaoise tried to press home the early advantage by adding a quick second, but Stradbally held out. Dan Adeyoe was making some mazing runs through the defenders, causing Stradbally all sorts of problems. His skill and control twice got him into good positions in front of goal but he could not find the target.
Stradbally looked off the pace and their slow start was showing no signs of improving. They had lined out with and experimental 3-5-2 formation that simply was not working. Management identified the problem and reverted to their more familiar 4-4-2 after just twenty minutes.
It was a different game after the switch. DJ O’Connell moved from midfield to left full-back and had a wonderful game. Aaron Wright and Shane Lambe had started as the wing-backs, but both looked revitalised with the freedom of playing in a midfield four.
Stradbally were much more settled and seeing a lot more of the ball and the chances started to come. Brendan Lawlor had three big opportunities throughout the first half, the best of which came in the 43rd minute when he was through, one-on-one with the Portlaoise goalkeeper, but Mateusz Cwienk denied him an equaliser.
The visitors looked like a completely different team and were bossing the midfield, but Portlaoise looked comfortable at the back. The hosts were well-martialled by captain, Gavin Comerford, who had one of his better games and always looked to send the long balls to striker, Kevin Ogdebege. The big, physical striker is a powerful runner who is well able to hold off defenders, making him a dream target-man and a great outlet for Portlaoise.
Stradbally continued to press for an equaliser and did create some opportunities late on. Shane Lambe had a fine game and made two clear-cut chances for himself in the second half, but he could not find the net. The reliable Eoin Buggie worked tirelessly, running the line and offering himself for long balls into the area, but never really looked like troubling the Portlaoise goal.
In the end, Portlaoise held out for the win and turn their attention to the Division 1 Cup next weekend. Stradbally won 4-2 in the reverse fixture back in October; there was very little to choose between the sides on that occasion and on today’s evidence, not much has changed.
PORTLAOISE: Mateusz Cwienk, James Wheeler, Jason Horan, Victor Oladapo, Gavin Comerford, David Olubowale, Manni Obadeyi, Jake Comerford, Kevin Ogdebege, Kevin Sesela, Dan Adeyoe.
Subs: Osema Boulakdhar for Sesela (35m), Sean Kitchen, Lee Carroll, Aviwe Tshula, Aidan Keane
STRADBALLY TOWN: Jack Larkin, Colin Beale, Aaron Wright, Eamonn Delaney, Kealen Barry, DJ O’Connell, Shane Lambe, Liam Knowles, Eoin Buggie, Damien Murphy, Brendan Lawlor
Subs: Padraig Fitzpatrick for Beale (57m), Tom Shiel for Knowles (68m), Liam Clancy for O’Connell (77m), Conor Goode for Wright (77m), Ciaran O’Neill for Barry (82m)