Relegation remains a strong possibility for Rhyl after Niall McGuiness came away empty-handed from his first league away game.
It would’ve been a long journey back to North Wales for the young manager who’s been thrown into the deep end in his first management post – and after seeing his side outclassed for long periods against Carmarthen and the gap between Rhyl and safety widening further to eight points, he must already be wondering whether he’s been thrown to the sharks by his board.
Such is football, in times of dire straits we often see a change in management at a club create a sudden spark. In contrast to previous results and performances, a change of manager at a struggling team can breath fresh desire and ideas into a side who a week earlier were dying a slow death. That I suspect, was the logic in Rhyl’s decision to change manager when they did, but McGuiness’ appointment is yet to have the desired effect, and there are those who question the club’s wisdom in appointing such a young coach with a complete lack of senior first-team management experience at such a critical time.
Saturday’s 2-0 scoreline flattered Rhyl and Carmarthen will be left scratching their heads as to how they only have two goals to show from such a bright, free-flowing display.
Watching the Rhyl squad go through their pre-match routine, I was keen to see just how much they would step-up on past performances against Carmarthen but I was soon disappointed as the visitors looked completely overawed.
Mark Jones, perhaps the form striker in the Welsh Premier League right now, needed no encouragement to continue his recent goalscoring form and the Carmarthen no.9 oozed confidence as the Old Gold applied wave after wave of attack.
Rhyl struggled to find any sort of foothold in the game with a diamond midfield failing to protect the back four and getting exposed down the flanks. Forwards Connor Bell and John Owen were starved of any service, scrapping for 50/50 aerial challenges or chasing balls hit into the corners, all to little effect. Rhyl’s gameplan was evidently not working.
POSITIVES FOR RHYL?
Outplayed for the majority of the game and fortunate to only be chasing a two-goal deficit, McGuiness can draw some positives from the final half-hour, where although they remained exposed at the back, his side played with far greater purpose.
This was part inspired by the introduction of Rob Hughes but more significantly, it was the switch to a 4-2-3-1 shape which afforded Rhyl their best spell of the game.
Connor Bell on the left of the ‘3’ found himself far more involved in the game – in fact anything they visitors produced of quality came through the Newcastle-born forward. It’s rare to see a side facing relegation possess top attacking talent and he’s impressed me everytime I’ve seen him this year. On loan from Wrexham, he may well have his future in the professional game already mapped out, but should return back to WPL next season I would expect it to be with one of a club in the top-half of the table.
The attacking trio playing behind Owen caused Carmarthen more problems in final half-hour than they did in the first 60 minutes. Carmarthen did have chances to add to their lead as they broke forward but I believe that should be attributed to Rhyl committing men forward to get back into the game as opposed to their change of shape lacking balance.
Indeed, if Rhyl had started with the game with the same shape and sense of purpose then we could have had quite a different outcome. Football is full of ‘ifs and buts’ but as the necessity for the Lilywhites to start winning games increases by the week, young Niall McGuiness may well have found some positives to contemplate while making that long journey home.