After Gibraltar’s winning run came to an abrupt end in a 6-2 defeat against Armenia last night, FG writer Dan Griffin looks at six things he learnt from the performance in the Nations League match.
Photo © William Gracia
Unwelcome cameo from ghosts of Gibraltar performances past
The first four games of the group had suggested that the meltdowns and multi-goal flurries of previous Gib sides was beginning to disappear under Julio Ribas. Unfortunately, a six-minute spell of madness at the start of the second half was an unwelcome return to that. It ultimately killed the game off as a contest, and was a reminder of the fact that this team is far from the finished product – hopefully last night was the exception and not the rule.
Luck not on Gibraltar’s side
If people may have accused Gib of being “lucky” away at Armenia, it is safe to say that such luck deserted them last night. The Armenia equaliser had more than a suspicion of being offside, while a couple of the other goals were arguably tight and on another day may have been flagged. Obviously you make your own luck but last night Gib didn’t get the rub of the green in that aspect.
Midfield is too ‘nice’ for its own good sometimes
Gibraltar tends to produce technically skilled, attack-minded midfielders more often than not, and the midfield last night, while all talented in their own right, perhaps lacked the bite needed at times for the battle against an Armenian side who pushed the boundaries of physicality to the extreme (three yellow cards was perhaps a bit on the low side for the away side last night.) Gibraltar could have done with having a defensive-minded midfielder or two in the side last night, intent on sitting back and disrupting the Armenian attack, in turn allowing the more creative players to do their thing. The only question is, who is the best player in Gibraltar to fill that role?
Ribas gambles didn’t all pay off
Ribas made two changes from the Liechtenstein win; one enforced and one optional. While his decision to use Tjay De Barr up front instead of the more experienced Reece Styche or Adam Priestley (who had an impressive cameo when he came on) paid dividends with the 18-year old opening the scoring and generally hassling the Armenian defence in the early stages, the decision to replace Andrew Hernandez with his brother Anthony was perhaps not as successful – Anthony has had a tough time with injury and not getting game time at Lincoln, and last night may have been too much to ask of him to step back in from the start. Also, choosing not to stay with the two-striker formation of the second half of last month’s game perhaps didn’t pay off either, as De Barr was eventually isolated for long spells of the game – when Priestley came on and Gib had two strikers up top (with Lee Casciaro supporting), the team regained their attacking impetus and got their consolation through the Ossett United striker.
Different styles of attacking options a positive for Gib squad
Bringing back Priestley and Styche into the international fold in recent months has expanded the variety of options Gib have up front which can only be a good thing. Different games require different approaches and if Gib do have a multitude of different styles of attack they can use, it can only benefit the team going forward. The trick is knowing when to unleash the skill and tenacity of someone like De Barr, or using someone like Styche or Priestley for a more direct approach.
Team is allowing fans to dream
If only for a brief spell, Gibraltar were one point off the top of the table. While Macedonia eventually won 2-0 themselves, there was a time that the last game on Monday offered a realistic chance of promotion for Gib – a pipe dream before September. The team is giving fans a reason to believe in better things coming, and although the result last night may not look great on paper, once the stupid mistakes and the switching off is drilled out of this team, there is potential for it to punch above its weight consistently. It will take a fair bit of time for said dreams to be made realities, but at least this team are allowing Gibraltarian fans to dream.