A month of mixed fortunes as Rovers lose for the first time
MAY TURNED out to a month of mixed fortunes for Rovers. They began the month as League leaders and secured vital victories over title challengers, Drogheda United and Shamrock Rovers, in early May to consolidate their position at the top of the table. However, the final weeks of the month raised fresh doubts about the team's ability to last the pace as they lost their first League match of the season away to UCD and were then dumped out of the FAI Cup at home to Monaghan United.
The month couldn't have started on a more positive note as Rovers travelled to Hunky Dorys Park and completely outclassed one of their nearest rivals, Drogheda United, emerging with a convincing 3-1 victory.
Danny North was once again in blistering form, helping himself to two goals, as Rovers extended their lead at the top of the table to four points.
David Cawley made his first start of the season, slotting into a four man midfield unit, and Rovers adventurous approach was rewarded with the lead goal in the 10th minute, a well-taken effort by Gavin Peers.
North made it 2-0 before Declan O'Brien pulled a goal back for Drogheda but Rovers continued to dictate the pattern of the game after the break and North made the points safe with his second goal of the game ten minutes from time.
The result set the scene for the first 'Battle of the Rovers' of the season at the Showgrounds the following Saturday and what an occasion it turned out to be as the Bit O'Red stormed to a magnificent 3-0 victory.
In front of a crowd of 2,823, Rovers set a hot tempo right from the start and carved out a number of chances before North fired them in front in the 30th minute after a penetrating run by Quigley unhinged the Hoops rearguard. It took Rovers just six further minutes to inflict further damage as David Cawley sidestepped two challenges on the edge of the box before dispatching a stinging shot to the roof of the net.
The Hoops had a few chances to reduce the deficit early in the second half but Rovers quickly regained the upper hand and put the issue beyond all doubt when North grabbed his second goal of the game in the 77th minute.
Just before the end, Raffaele Cretaro had a chance to mark his 400th career appearance in the League with a goal but shot over the top from close range.
In keeping with the pattern of contest between the two clubs, this was a rousing, sometimes combustible encounter with referee, Tom Connolly, obliged to issue red cards to Shamrock's pair, Chris Turner and Graham Gartland, in the second half.
The result left Ian Baraclough's side eight points clear of the defending champions and six points ahead of second-placed St. Patrick's Athletic.
The manager urged caution in the aftermath of the famous win, however.
He said: In the early part of the season, people were saying we would be tested when we played the top teams. Now we've had that test and we've answered those questions.
"We're in a great position but this is a very competitive League and there's still a long way to go."
The Showgrounds faithful had a new hero to acclaim the following week as Haitian international, Pascal Millien, came off the bench to score a wonder goal in Rovers 3-0 win over Shelbourne at the Showgrounds.
Within minutes of his introduction, Millien set off on a blistering run down the right flank before cutting inside and unleashing a cracking shot with his left foot high into the net in the 84th minute.
It rounded off another stylish performance by the Bit O'Red and it was also another night of personal triumph for the prolific Danny North who scored either side of half time to bring his tally for the season in all competitions to 13.
If the convincing wins over Shams and Shels in successive home games generated a lot of optimism among the club's fan base, there was an unexpected reality check on Monday, May 21st, when Rovers slumped to their first League defeat of the season, losing 1-0 away to struggling UCD.
And there was a further setback for the Bit O'Red the following week-end when they surrendered their FAI Cup crown, crashing to a shock 3-1 defeat at home to Monaghan United.
Despite two disappointing results at the end of the month, Baraclough refused to panic.
"We're seven points clear of the chasing pack for a reason", he declared. "It's because we've been the best team in the League so far," added Baraclough.