There were a couple of things in the match programme which struck me as pertinent never mind coincidental to the subject of this weekend’s Player Watch – Glentoran centre back Willy Garrett. Not only did he have his own club interview over a few pages but a line from a former Glentoran ‘great’ – John Devine struck me. On being asked what makes a great defender he said you need to be “big, strong, brave and athletic”. The very words that certainly could be used to describe Garrett.
He is a very vibrant defender if that is the right word. He radiates energy, physical certainty and attitude. You’ll see him bouncing on his feet in anticipation frequently. Sure, it shows concentration and willingness but it also sends out the messages to forwards that this area of the pitch is his lair. Throughout the game he played very much as the last line of defence but it is a huge mental outlook of his as well – you have to get through me. As the first man to play for the first team having played for every Glentoran junior team it is a good mindset to have.
He started the game well with three sure touches in the first minute – a solid left footed clearance and a couple of headers establishing dominance over McGonigle early on. This makes a change as I find a lot of my subjects take a while to get involved in the game, but Coleraine are a very good side and he was sure to be busy. He was quick as well to move to the left to support left- back Redman and by and large this worked well. A couple of times though I felt both he or Davidson could have moved to provide an option for Redman when he was pegged in a corner facing his own line but moving on.
At corners and set – pieces he had his hands full containing Stephen O’Donnell and by and large he managed that. He was generally facing Jamie McGonigle and that would have made sense pace – wise and was dealing with him well by not giving him space to turn through physical domination. I would suggest his concentration levels were full on knowing when to go tight and when not. He maintained the shape of the back – line when McGonigle moved away to the right and his partner Birney then had matters to deal with as Aaron Burns was foraging from a deeper position.
He is a proper force in the air and attacks the ball very well but I was keen to see how he would deal with Eoin Bradley (who was sub) should he come on as McGonigle is more a foot soldier than a pilot. His distribution of the ball was generally good. He found Allen with good balls to his feet mixed in with some calm passing around his own box. He is also happy to take the ball from goalkeeper Morris. He tried a long deep ball down the left which was just a tad ambitious for the chasing Redman but then fine – tuned it a bit next time. This next ball was down the left channel forcing a stretched clearance and throw – in from the Coleraine defence moving his team up the pitch.
As the game approached the half – hour the game livened up for him. He tidied up an edge of box misjudgement by Marcus Kane very neatly with some very cool play, jinking left and then releasing in a fairly tight situation. Not something you can afford to get wrong but fair play. However a couple of lapses in concentration followed – firstly winning a header but then briefly switched off for the secondary ball which could have been costly. Then a more major lapse. He let a pass and his opponent get down his left blindside and McGonigle was away and only a great save by Morris saved the moment. His hand was up in apology.
However it didn’t rattle him and twice he covered danger left and right seeing off threats from McAuley and McGonigle and was well paced to block a cross from Carson. Another strong piece of play was when he won the ball from Burns and released John McGuigan and a good Glentoran move ensued.
As I thought Eoin Bradley came on from the second half and the kettle of fish was very new for him now. Almost instantly this was shown as Bradley now took a ball from his own defence on his chest and had the strength to hold off Garrett to set up a shot for a colleague. Garrett shortly afterwards then fouled Bradley perhaps a little rattled. Glentoran who were one down then had a good twenty odd minutes on the offensive and moved ahead by a goal so he knew he was in for a tough last quarter.
It was indeed tough but I felt he came through it fairly well blocking a dangerous ball in from the left and then denying Bradley which caused a bit of a penalty/diving fuss. He perhaps was a little casual in this instance. A lot of free – kicks were coming in and he was still having to battle with O’Donnell which he did satisfactorily though he might have been annoyed if a second – ball light header had gone in from the man he was marking. Whilst his team conceded in the last three minutes he saw the game out well winning headers against three different opponents and reading offensive intentions well. Just before the final whistle he seemed unsure at a free kick whether to stay goalside of O’Donnell or go with the team offside line at the edge of the box. Training issue there I think.
I don’t believe he dived in once all game which is always an interesting statistic with regard to back four organisation and his own discipline. In the programme his fellow centre – back Calum Birney talked of his partnership with Garrett. In the 2015 Cup Final against Portadown I felt they had one of their best ever performances and thought Glentoran could benefit from these two together for the long term future. They do indeed work well together with a lot of unspoken communication clearly going on through as team mates will testify, Garrett is pretty vocal on the pitch though he was noticeably quieter in the second half. I think all his mental energy was taken up trying to deal with Bradley.
Injury has cost him hard in the last two years but both he and Birney played a big part in Coleraine coming within three minutes of their first defeat since last November and credit to Coleraine for ensuring that run continued. A great subject to watch closely as it is never dull because he just wants to be involved.