Player Watch: Johnny Flynn

NIFL Premiership

Ballymena United v Glentoran 16th September 2017

Centre back Johnny Flynn lined up on the left side of a 3-5-2 formation against Glentoran on a wet and unwelcome afternoon under Slemish mountain. He had Michael Gault beside him and Kyle Owens beyond him as partners.

It took nearly seven or eight minutes in before he was called into meaningful action where he was called upon to deal with Curtis Allen. Allen had received the ball at the end of a tidy Glentoran move and whilst far from being on his own, his basic defence of always being in front of his opponent ensured a tame shot for the goalkeeper. After that for a while his main activity was dealing with windblown awkward bouncing balls which he usually fielded to his wing back Stephen McCullough.

Glentoran’s forwards were playing more to their left which meant Owens and Gault were the busier defenders but he still had to block a shot from McDaid. Halfway through the first half he made a big decision to come completely over to the right to intercept a long ball to McGuigan which called on his experience and decision-making. His team went 1-0 down when his goalkeeper unsuccessfully came for a free kick which should have been left to his defenders though Flynn was not in that batch.

He spent a fair bit of time covering possible eventualities and was on hand when a slip by Gault could have caused a problem, but Flynn was on hand to deal with it. After making a good tackle on McDaid his first mistake came when he headed a deep ball perhaps a bit short to McCullough. The wing-back in his own half was forced to foul and received a yellow card for his trouble. His sense of possible danger was again illustrated when goalkeeper Brennan dropped a deep cross but he was at hand to avert any threat.

He supported his busier partners well in clearing tackles and held his position well to maintain the shape of the team. Not being the quickest of players this was vitally important in a system where lack of pace can be exposed. A nudge in the back which he got away with on McDaid saved a possible moment of danger but he was winning his battles with the young forward through strength, experience and positioning by and large.

Being behind from the 27th minute, Ballymena had upped the energy levels and attacked Glentoran more forcefully. Thus the back line had to push up to avoid gaps forming from the midfield. He was involved in two shuddering clashes. One of heads with McDaid and another big crash with McGuigan which called on judgement and bravery as the visitors had started putting longer counter balls down his avenue. It took McGuigan longer to shake his injury off but Flynn certainly felt it too.

In a repeat of his first half short header, he did the same over on the right touchline when Curtis Allen was the grateful recipient. Perhaps he might have been better leaving the ball to touch though his reading of the exposed right flank was correct in the first place. Robbie McDaid was now permanently on the right perhaps sensing a pace exploitation but there was no run or ball that caused huge problems for Flynn and he fielded most issues coming his way, including blocking a McGuigan cross for a corner when his team were stretched deep into the game.

Johnny Flynn can be pleased with his showing. He held up the left flank solidly, won his headers and his distribution did not cause any serious issues for his side. The middle goal for Glentoran came at the right hand side of the defence rather than his side. I feel his main job was ensuring that Glentoran did not get in behind him or beat him for pace when the defensive line was higher up the pitch. To ensure this he had to put in a couple of big tackles which he really had to get right and he certainly did that.