Pat's equal club record as Rovers left to rue missed chances
Shamrock Rovers 0 St Patrick's Athletic 2
THIS was a game that neither side could afford to lose and that’s why all involved with Shamrock Rovers will have plenty to ponder this morning.
Pat Fenlon’s charges had enough chances to take something from this Dublin derby with a St Patrick’s Athletic side that have equalled a club record by winning eight league games on the trot.
Unfortunately, the outcome of this encounter was determined by a traumatic second half for promising Rovers keeper Craig Hyland.
He allowed a Chris Forrester strike to slip through his fingers to put Saints control and was caught out again at the death when sub Morgan Langley pounced on another mistake to find the empty net and send the away end into raptures.
The visitors can point to a string of first half misses as evidence that they deserved this victory, although the victorious party tends not to dwell too much on details in post mortem.
What will excite Saints followers now is that a league tilt that looked to be dead and buried now has life again with Dundalk’s slip-up against Longford meaning that Liam Buckley’s in-form outfit are now just nine points off the top.
Rovers are just three back with a game in hand but this is a serious blow to their ambitions. And, considering they are out of the FAI Cup, they have to improve on last year’s fourth place finish to hint at progression. It would leave them reliant on cup favours to make Europe too.
Fenlon needs to get Damien Duff, Stephen McPhail and Keith Fahey back on the pitch as soon as possible, but it’s the form of his front men that will be troubling him.
Rovers, with seven changes from the team which lost on penalties to the Saints in the EA Sports Cup semi here on Monday, started the game reasonably brightly with chances for Simon Madden and Gary McCabe in that period.
Yet they rode their luck on three occasions in a sudden flurry of activity where the Inchicore men really should have gone ahead.
First, an errant McCabe backpass was seized upon by Jamie McGrath who was unable to find a way past Hyland. McGrath, a teenager with a growing profile, fluffed his lines again when he made a dreadful connection from a perfect Ger O’Brien cross. Then, a Killian Brennan exocet struck the bar.
The natives had reason to be apprehensive and, after the interval, their mood darkened as Hyland inexplicably allowed a tame Forrester shot from distance slip through his fingers and across the line. It was a rookie error from a youngster that has excelled this term.
Fenlon immediately withdrew holding midfielder Pat Cregg and sent in striker Mikey Drennan to support Danny North.
His side then had a shout for a penalty when Gavin Brennan went down in the area but was yellow carded for simulation. He was furious and so was McGrath when he went into Rob Rogers’ notebook for the same offence at the other end.
Rovers had to chase from this position and Drennan instantly got himself involved in the action.
Alas, he was devoid of assurance when he curled a one-on-one the wrong side of the post and then shot straight at Kenny Browne in a crowded box.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Fenlon turned to the fresh faced Gareth McCaffrey with North out of steam. It was Drennan that kept finding the right positions, though, but Brendan Clarke was equal to the task when the ex-Aston Villa trainee darted through to squander another opportunity.
Rovers could do no better as they slumped to a first Tallaght loss in the league for over a year with a petulant injury time dismissal for sub Kieran Marty Waters and Langley’s insurance goal confirming their misery.
SHAMROCK ROVERS – HYLAND, MADDEN, KENNA, WEBSTER, BYRNE; CREGG (DRENNAN 52), MCCABE; G BRENNAN (WATERS 82), R BRENNAN, MIELE; NORTH (MCCAFFREY 74)
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC – Clarke, O’Brien, Browne (McGuinness 90), Desmond, Bermingham; Chambers, Brennan; Byrne (Bayly 90), Greene, Forrester; McGrath (Langley 82)
REF – R ROGERS (DUBLIN)