By Damian Dolan
London senior football manager Michael Maher says he’s happy with the progress the Exiles have made after three rounds of league action, despite the team still searching for their first ‘W’ of the season.
London were edged out last Sunday by Antrim at a wet and windy McGovern Park, and now have a weekend off to take stock before they travel to Paul Galvin’s Wexford (23 February), who picked up their second win last weekend.
“I’m glad with where we’re at – we’ve learnt a hell of a lot,” Maher told the Irish World. “Our match fitness is up to speed.”
After a “fluke” result against Sligo on the opening weekend, in which the Exiles conceded five goals, they’ve proven far tougher to beat since.
Limerick, who top Division 4, only had one-point to spare in Rathkeale while Antrim were looking over their shoulder in the fourth quarter at Ruislip, as the home side got up a head of steam.
“Today was another narrow defeat on a day which was really a game of two halves,” he said.
Having played the top three sides in the Div 4 table, Maher believes the Exiles can push on from here.
“It’s good for us because it shows exactly where we’re at, and what each player can offer the group,” he said.
“They’re the three teams that I’d have said would be pushing for promotion.”
London opened the scoring and looked in control in the opening ten minutes, despite playing the first half into the teeth of Storm Ciara.
But the Saffrons slowly gained control and opened up an eight-point lead by the break (0-9 to 0-1).
“An eight-point gap was big, but it wasn’t insurmountable. Had we just got our rhythm going at the start of the second half we might have clawed it back,” said Maher.
“Antrim just picked up a couple of scores that left them with a four or five-point cushion that made it tougher than we’d have liked, but credit to the lads.
“It was a serious effort to come back against a well-drilled team clearly going for promotion.”
Aside from Ryan Forde’s free, which opened the scoring, scoring chances proved hard to come by for London in the first half.
“We had the chance to create another score or two, but until you’re out in the middle of that pitch and you feel how strong that wind was, it was very difficult to build momentum,” said Maher.
“We made a few 45 entries in the first half, but the final pass let us down.”
One of the overwhelming positives for Maher was London’s strong finish, which saw them close the gap from nine points (0-12 to 0-3) to get within just four of Antrim.
“Our fitness levels were excellent. We kept going to the end and we had them penned right back in,” added the London boss.
“Another five minutes, would we have pulled it back? I think we’d have been very close.
“I was very impressed with our effort. Disappointed not to get over the line because the lads’ effort definitely deserved the two points.”