Lilies snatch an ugly win
Victory can't hide Kildare's various problems as they struggle past Westmeath
Kildare continue to stutter during this Division 2 campaign and their 1-11 to 2-7 win over Westmeath couldn't mask the fact that this is not a team in rude health.
Manager Kieran McGeeney agreed that they were poor but reckoned it was the first time in his stewardship that the Lilies had won while playing badly.
It keeps them in contention for promotion but they don't look a Division 1 outfit right now. They haven't done so all season, but Kildare cannot afford to be missing the likes of Mikey Conway, Johnny Doyle, Eamonn Callaghan, Alan Smith, Morgan O'Flaherty, Brian Flanagan, Rob Kelly and Anthony Rainbow, as they have done for large parts of the season due to injury and suspension.
For this game, six of that group were back in the mix but Dermot Earley (knee), Gary White (hamstring) and Pádraig O'Neill (illness) were gone. All of which makes it very difficult to build consistency.
"We started with four new fellas who hadn't played in a while and it hurt us in the middle," said McGeeney.
"In the middle eight, Rob was coming back after injury, Morgan O'Flaherty (suspension), Hughie Lynch (making his first start) and Anthony Rainbow (returned from injury). We were very static around the middle, we weren't flowing.
"After the first 15 minutes Morgan got into it -- he's a class player -- but Rob, Hughie and Anthony struggled to get into it.
"I'm trying to give players game time. You're looking at Rob to get back to get games under his belt. Leper (Callaghan) was very quiet last week and he needs more game time.
"You're coming close to the championship and you need players who can play."
Westmeath started brilliantly, with a generous penalty award by referee Aidan Mangan capitalised on with glee by Paul Bannon.
Martin Flanagan was in fine form on his first start back from injury and he added a goal in the 13th minute to help the Lakesiders go seven points clear.
Callaghan was also making his first start of the year, having been introduced as a sub against Armagh the previous week, and his venomous shot to the Westmeath net soon after the resumption got Kildare back into it.
With Johnny Doyle kicking five points in succession, the last two of which were right out of the top drawer, the hosts snatched the crucial victory.