Player Watch: Joe Gormley

NIFL Premiership

Glentoran v CLIFTONVILLE 14TH October 2017

Joe Gormley is probably the most established subject for Player Watch to date. One of the preseason discussions prevalent was how the former goal – machine would fare on his return to the local league after his injury whilst in England. It is a few years since I had seen him and perhaps it was no surprise to see that he looked a stronger unit than before his departure.

I suppose Player Watch should report on exactly what you see in front of you, but I selected Gormley today with not only his return to the league in mind but also his injury and his reported lack of form earlier in the season. Lining up in a 4-4-2 with fellow Gillingham returnee Rory Donnelly he looked every inch the target man though now with fashionable Peaky Blinders haircut.

He lost the first header that came his way to marker Daniel Kelly and indeed his second involvement came to little either, losing possession in trying to turn away from his opponent. His first actions were very much target man type offerings and he started to move and challenge a bit more to see what he could manufacture. He was thinking faster than a few defenders in getting first to a throw-in ball and got in a few challenges near the touchline.

As his team struggled to get a traction in the game the balls forward to him were average and he struggled to make hay out of anything coming at him. Most of Cliftonville’s major activity was all in midfield and they started to pepper Glentoran’s right back Kerr with long high balls due to his lack of inches. More men started to appear down that channel and it was apparent that this was an attempt to try and feed Gormley in the middle.

Our subject won a defensive header in his own half and then was unceremoniously fouled from behind by Birney which affected him for a few minutes. His team though were slowly starting to get around Glentoran on the flanks but little was getting through to him.

This perhaps encouraged him to start to move wide to see what might occur. First he chased down a backpedalling defender to force a rushed clearance and this may well have led to his and the match’s best moment.

Taking a pass from his midfield and far out on the Glentoran right he sucked in a couple of defenders and sumptuously with the outside of his right boot, curled in and away from the net a devastating cross to enable Donnelly to open the scoring. A proper touch of class. Having decided that there was prey for him there, he was found again lurking closer in this time and with a dummy had the Glentoran right back on the floor though the cross only accrued a corner.

He was much more active now and this fitted in with his team’s increasing toehold in the game as he forced Birney into a poor headed clearance. Just before halftime, a break from Chris Curran had him teed up on the edge of the box with a defender in front of him. One could see his thought process as he first considered trying to curl the ball around him into the corner of the net but decided this was too ambitious. This avenue mentally rejected, he tried to find a colleague further to his left but failed and the move broke down.

The second half was really a bit of a non-event for him primarily due to the nature of the game. Cliftonville really had the measure of Glentoran and were content to let them have most of the ball, happy that there was very little threat from them. Gormley made a few runs as he was more on his own now and was certainly distressed when a run was not rewarded with a good ball. He lost the odd header again but his technical ability was apparent trapping an awkward ball and in the same touch moving the ball out wide to a teammate. His final action of note was pulling out right and getting a shot in but it did not trouble the goalkeeper.

Whilst Cliftonville won the match 2-0 the game was won by that moment of magic of his in the first half. I do think he has lost a yard of pace but perhaps that is enabling him to add other aspects to his game.