20 years old
v Celtic (03/04/15)
Thursday, rather than Friday, was my night of choice this week to get absolutely blootered. Hey, it was a bank holiday after all. After much paranoid retching I managed to pull myself onto the couch and tune into St Mirren v Celtic on BT Sport.
I bet you’re wondering why I am telling you this? After all, you surely read my review of James Forrest’s performance from the same game. And yet, I felt so bad in my blurry guilt-racked mind about failing to submit a review for the whole of last weekend – it involved a free corporate hospitality trip to Ibrox; I can’t remember much of the rest – that I decided to stay prone on the couch and watch the game once more. This time selecting someone from the losing side.
On first viewing I had been impressed by John McGinn, but then I already knew he was a good player and have often watched him closely in St Mirren matches over the past couple of seasons. So instead I went for a player who caught my eye on occasion but I couldn’t determine wholly on first viewing whether he’d had a particularly good game – it should also be said that I continuously spelled his surname wrong in my first draft of this piece, and thought his first name was Matthew. That may sound a little ominous, though I will admit that he was involved enough that I should have been able to remember his name. Chalk that one up to the tequila.
The first thing I deduced from Celtic’s left-wing opponent was that he wasn’t a natural left winger. For one he was right footed, and predominately so. At one point he even did that ridiculous pirouette players with no faith in their weaker foot attempt instead of a simple drag and turn. As a result it was his natural tendency to drift in centrally, which was part of Gary Teale’s plan.
St Mirren were playing with two banks of four, with Jim Goodwin stationed between the two and Yoann Arquin as the sole player up top. There was no attacking central midfielder to support the striker and James Dayton was more of a natural winger on the other side. Sadlier’s job in attack was to drift inside and support Arquin.
I could summarise by saying he has something about him, but in this particular game he didn’t get much of a chance to show it, and when he did he didn’t have the quite impact required. Considering the strength of opposition that’s not a stick to beat him with, though it is enough reason to marked him down.
For example, midway through the first half he drifted behind Adam Matthews and controlled a floated switch from McGinn. His touch was sublime and allowed him to immediately face him Matthews on the left, just inside the penalty area. It is at this point he needed to be assertive and attack his man in one way or the other. Celtic were a little short at the back and a direct attack on the penalty area would have caused them real problems. Instead he shifted it onto his right, back to his left, did a couple of feints… and then rolled the ball back to Jereon Tesselaar. By this point the box was crowded and the left-back’s low cross was easily cleared.
After that, I must say, he did improve. Another opportunity on the right wing saw him immediately cut back on his right and whip in an inswinging cross which found the head of Stephen Mallan. Had the midfielder got a little less contact on the ball it may have sneaked past Craig Gordon, instead it looped into the air and safely into the keeper’s arms.
With his confidence on the rise he then showed more ambition to drive into the centre and have a pop from 25 yards out. Gordon saved easily but at least it was a shot on target, and St Mirren were proving themselves to be a threat against the champions, particularly on the counter attack where Sadlier’s agility and athleticism made him a potential weapon.
Unfortunately, this game was less about going forward and more about defending for St Mirren, and it was in this area where Sadlier made the mistake which proved to be his team’s downfall.
I have to say, in the first half, he did an excellent job of tracking Adam Matthews runs from right back. Even when he ventured into the centre and, at one point, all the way out to the right wing, he showed the required earnestness to get back over to the other side and resume his duties. There was, however, was blip right on the end of half-time which proved to be a prelude for what was to come.
Though initially keeping up with Matthews, he made a mistake by deciding to slide in and try to force the ball out for a corner. Matthews showed the kind of subtlety you’d expect from a player of real quality to lift the ball above Sadlier’s outstretched leg, and leave the player in his dust as he scampered into the box. He’d overcommitted in an area he didn’t need to and had to be bailed out by his teammates who cleared Matthew’s cross.
It served as a warning, if one was required, that a player’s concentration must be kept at optimum levels when defending against Celtic. Unfortunately he didn’t heed the warning and St Mirren paid the price.
It was only a split-second, a little pause where Sadlier switched his attention to the play inside and forgot about Matthews. But that split-second was all the full-back needed to dart down the right wing, receive a pass and square for James Forrest to open the scoring. Give them a yard and they’ll take a mile.
I don’t want to be too harsh on the boy. He’d had a solid enough game and been pretty unlucky in the end. A bout of ball watching from Jim Goodwin had allowed Kris Commons a free shot from inside the penalty area, while a similarly inattentive Stephen Mallan enabled the same player to set up Forrest with a great chance a few minutes later. Both were better openings than what Sadlier allowed, and yet he was the one who was punished.
There were times when I was really impressed with his technique. He could take the ball in tight areas and would manage to wriggle his way out and keep possession going.
The main takeaway from this match was there was some undoubted potential in there. The problem is he then followed the performance up with an absolute howler against Motherwell. Of course, in the latter match the same criticism can apply to the whole team. Should a competent manager enter St Mirren Park in the summer, and Sadlier be content to rise back up from the Scottish second tier, then the new man will have a decent enough talent to mould.
Of that I am certain,
The Football Critic
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