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'It was a big move in my career. I wasn't playing week in, week out over in Scotland so I took the leap'

Matty Smith has been key to St Patrick’s Athletic’s excellent start to the season.

Matty Smith (file pic)
Matty Smith (file pic)
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

MATTY SMITH believes playing in the League of Ireland has given him a new lease of life.

The 24-year-old attacker produced an influential display as St Patrick’s Athletic beat Sligo Rovers 2-0 to go second in the Premier Division table on Friday.

Smith opened the scoring with a fine finish early on, while he also won the penalty for the all-important second goal with 18 minutes remaining.

The forward played for a host of Scottish clubs including Celtic at youth level and made his first-team debut at Dundee United as a teenager.

However, the Dundee native struggled for regular football in Scotland, before opting to sign for Waterford last year.

And having impressed at the RSC, he agreed to make the switch to the Saints in the close season, where he has maintained his good form, with Friday’s opener the fourth time he has found the net in the Premier Division this season.

“It was a big move in my career. I wasn’t playing week in, week out over in Scotland anyway so I took the leap coming to Waterford and they were brilliant for me as well. I’ve done well — coming here, I wanted to improve my game, and I think I have done that under Stephen.

“I thank the gaffer for that as well with the environment he has got with all the boys, there is a real togetherness, it’s brilliant.

“It’s your life as well, and you’re away from family, which is tough, but I have enjoyed my football over here.”

And the one downside to Smith’s starring role on Friday night was that it clashed with Scotland’s big Euro 2020 clash against England, which he was “absolutely gutted” to miss.

“The 30,000 or whatever who went over, gutted there wasn’t even one goal for them, but we’ll take the draw.

“It will be a tough game against Croatia, but we have home advantage, it’s at Hampden, isn’t it? So we’ll see.”

Manager Alan Mathews also praised Smith’s impact since joining the club: “A great zest, energy, a willingness to run channels and close full-backs down and go hunt the ball, but also a real desire to run at people and be very, very positive when he gets possession in the last third. He did it a couple of times and maybe it bounced off him or he got blocked down.

“But he’s a real threat to play off people’s shoulders and he also gives his midfielders and full-backs help and support. There are a lot of aspects in his game that you’d look for in a wide player and he’s a goal threat, that’s a couple now he’s got.

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“This is his second season in the league and he’s probably now beginning to find his way, linking in with our players. Having come in when he did, it was probably a little alien for him, having been with Waterford last year. Now, he’s up to speed and I think he’s making a real contribution.”

Meanwhile, Sligo boss Liam Buckley admitted his side had not been good enough as the manager made an unsuccessful return to his former club.

“If you don’t create enough chances in games, you won’t win them. And that unfortunately [was the case] for us in the first half. I am looking at it and we’re looking to change things up to see can we get better. There’s a lot to play for this season. I said to the boys in there, we’re still the top end of the table, we’re only three points off Rovers and [Pat's] only matched us [on points] tonight, so we’re still in the mix for all this. We need to calm down, get back to trying to pass it and be a bit more creative and a bit more adventurous in our style.

“I kind of just said to them: ‘This is going to be a right dogfight through to the end of the season.’ I see Bohs getting better, Derry will get better, there are going to be a lot of teams that will all be fighting for those [top] spots, so we need to improve ourselves now in fairness.”

In addition, there was a concern for Sligo just before half-time, as Robbie McCourt had to go off with what looked like a serious injury.

“I was just on the phone there to him. He’s down in James’ [hospital] just waiting to be seen. He’s waiting for an x-ray, scans on his wrist for whatever way he fell there. We’re not sure. We’ll have to wait and see for the results.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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