Glentoran v CARRICK RANGERS 21st APRIL 2018

A bit of a story lurks behind today’s Player Watch. Back in August on a very sunny day at the Oval when Player Watch was studying John McGuigan in a match against Carrick, Lee Chapman scored an equaliser to cancel out Ross Redman’s opener. In the return game in December he once again repeated the dose this time with another equaliser to deny Glentoran full points.

So, once again at a sun splashed Oval, Carrick’s wide-right midfielder took the stage. Never mind the pressure of being the subject of Player Watch, the stakes were much higher with the Bluefin shadow of relegation stalking Carrick in what was a very definite ‘must not lose’ game. It was to prove an interesting exercise as the ex-Glentoran youth player returned to the Oval.

As tends to happen for some reason his first activity was competing for a header from a throw-in. It took a while for the play to move his way. Both teams were crowding around the ball and there was little room to construct. He pulled a ball back to his full – back Aaron Smyth instead of trying to thread a difficult ball to an overlapping colleague which was probably the right call. He works particularly well with Smyth as they effortlessly exchanged positions as and when the situation demanded. If Smyth was forward I did not have to look as to who was holding the space.

He appears a very alert and intelligent player. Sometimes the idea you formulate of a player can still be embryonic but what happens is things you expect him to do start to occur in a way to concrete that thought. For example Morris, the Glentoran goalkeeper threw the ball a little hurriedly at one of his players in the hopes of a bit of a breakout. I considered this risky as the ball was bouncing and lively and needed more time than he was likely to be given to control it… but only if it was pounced upon by a Carrick player eager to make hay.

Sure enough, Chapman was on it in a flash as he had anticipated problems for the unfortunate Glentoran player. The ball was won for the team in orange. Whilst he was unable to find decent space to operate in at this point in the game he was always in there fighting to win the ball for his team, in one instance winning a 40- 60 against simply through lower body position and greater will. A couple of times he lost the ball in this sort of close combat but it was this sort of harrying that was preventing Ross Redman get up the pitch to support his winger.

As you would expect he could also be found helping out his defence and needed to as Glentoran were having the better of the first half though little of note was being created by either side. He was outmuscled by Davidson and gave away a free-kick in a dangerous area but there is nothing wrong with his work ethic. He is conscious of his position and the impact he can have with it. Keen to keep a line with his full- back and the width of his team he knows when to come in to act as centre forward and was always lurking in Ross Redman’s blind spot so he can use pace to capitalise on any Glentoran sloppiness. He harried Redman once almost to distraction in not letting him clear the ball and Davidson soon quickly learned not to dither on the ball as well.

This is the sort of stuff that his manager ought to love. Even if he does not actually get a tackle in his buzzing about was winning secondary balls and forcing Glentoran mistakes either through forcing a bad pass or even free kicks for others. ‘Unseen dirty work off the ball’ would encompass a lot of what he does when his team are not in possession. He seems to have a controlled and concentrated demeanour and does not appear to get distracted by anything unnecessary. He did have his team’s best chance of the first half as a ball fell to him left of the net. He will be disappointed with his shot which flew wide across the goal as there was a clear path to the corner of the net but he did well to be in that position at the same time as the ball ran loose.

As you might expect there was much more oomph from Carrick at the start of the second half as their Premiership status had possibly forty – five minutes remaining if they were to come back from a goal down. Michael Smith had replaced Glackin up front and there was more physicality, movement and link – up play which resulted in better space for Chapman to operate in. Carrick were on the front foot and a difficult shot from Darren Henderson resulted in Morris spilling the ball.

I was not in the least surprised to see the first man onto it being Chapman who lashed it high into the net. Goal number three against Glentoran this season and it might well have been the most important. His understated celebration illustrated that there was still work to be done. Impressive! The goal was galvanising Carrick.

At this point Chapman started to morph much more into a right – winger and sent in several dangerous crosses. Smith’s running into the channels and availability for the ball was a huge factor in creating space for him to do this and it was little surprise that more damage occurred from the Glentoran left as McAllister swooped on a loose ball to grab Carrick’s second.

Maintenance of this lead took over now and he kept the hammer on Redman, not giving him a second on the ball and forcing a throw in and then a corner from such intense harassment. He was all action now and won a header at the back post to send it dangerously into the centre of the box. In the heat he had put in a huge effort and did not seem interested in relaxing his personal grip on the right flank. The fact that Davidson was substituted for Glentoran more than highlighted the difficulties they were having down that side of the pitch. My last view of him was bending in the air to get over a ball to put in a rocket of a down – arcing shot which caused Morris all sorts of problems.

Glentoran will be glad to see the back of Carrick Rangers this season and Chapman in particular. None more than Glentoran’s left back Ross Redman who barely got across the halfway line all match. Whatever positive outcome happens to Carrick this season I would suggest that Lee Chapman has more than played his part.