Rovers survive late scare to take derby honours
Shamrock Rovers 2 Bohemians 1
FOR the second week in a row, late drama almost affected the outcome of a Shamrock Rovers game. This time around, the Hoops were on the right side of the equation.
Stephen Bradley’s took three points from their meeting with arch-rivals Bohemians, and they deserved them on the balance of play.
But they had to survive a late wobble at Tallaght with an injury-time penalty from Bohs and a vain shout for another one adding suspense to an encounter that looked to be petering towards a routine success for Rovers.
They still have rough edges to iron out, but they responded well to an opening defeat in Dundalk, with youthful members of Bradley’s dressing-room coming to the fore for the big occasion.
This game only went ahead after a pair of pitch inspections earlier in the day and when the heavens opened again before kick-off it was clear that it was going to be a slog.
The area around the centre circle was particularly boggy and, at times, it was more Kentucky Derby than Dublin derby as the participants slogged through the dirt.
Fluid football was in short supply before the interval, with the large attendance energised by some meaty challenges that arose from the ball slowing up from simple passes.
Rovers did shade proceedings without completely dominating as Bohs worked hard to restrict them space in attacking areas. It was Hoops’ left-back Trevor Clarke who turned out to be their main threat with the 18-year-old showing why Bradley holds him in such high regard.
He was felled at the edge of the box from one mazy advance with Brandon Miele’s subsequent free-kick fired straight at Shane Supple. The same duo then combined with Clarke drilling a left-footer wide from a Miele centre. He then shot wide with his weaker foot when he again found himself in the Bohs box.
Visiting boss Keith Long was forced into a pair of half-time changes with centre-half Dan Byrne and striker Dinny Corcoran replaced by Stephen Best and Dean Casey, and they rode their luck from the restart with Darren Meenan and Miele denied in a pair of frantic goalmouth scrambles, as Rovers started to get some joy down the right side.
And they broke the deadlock from that avenue, with the space created for Simon Madden to progress forward and send in a cross that was misjudged by Best and found Miele, who stepped inside Derek Pender and clinically finished with his left foot.
It was deserved, but it drew a response from the visitors, with new Hoops keeper Tomer Chencinski alert to push away a close-range effort from Casey that could have been met with greater conviction.
He then pressed to win a corner that Lorcan Fitzgerald curled onto the head of Ian Morris, with the woodwork coming to the rescue for Rovers.
Bradley responded to the difficult period by working his bench, and his switches were vindicated when a pair of teenage subs played starring roles in the insurance goal.
Clarke started the classic counter attack and Miele’s replacement James Doona, a youngster who broke through last year, released Ryan Connolly inside the area, with the experienced ex-Galway man calmly squaring for the fresh Michael O’Connor, who sprinted into the right place to convert via the crossbar.
That looked to be game over with the wind taken from Bohs’ sails and it could have got worse, with Fitzgerald clearing a deft O’Connor flick off the line with Supple beaten.
Bradley then introduced Roberto Lopes, the winter capture from Bohs, to rub salt in the wounds by demonstrating that the Dublin 24 outfit can afford to bench one of Long’s key men in recent seasons.
He was subjected to jeers from the away end as he slotted into a defensive role that was stiffened by an injury to centre-half Daniel Devine which meant he spent the dying minutes hobbling around up front because Rovers had used all of their subs.
However, Devine got himself into trouble when wandering back to defend a set-piece, with ref Rob Harvey punishing the ex- Aston Villa trainee for an off the ball squabble and pointing to the spot. Loanee George Poynton converted and Bohs pushed again and frantically appealed when a corner struck the arm of Lopes, who knew nothing about it.
Harvey’s full-time whistle prompted a mini-melee that quickly died down. The final push might give Bohs followers some cheer, but a challenging campaign lies ahead after back to back defeats. Rovers have more reasons to be optimistic.
SHAMROCK RVS – Chencinski, Madden, Devine, Webster, Clarke; McAllister, Finn; Meenan, Connolly (Lopes 75), Miele (Doona 68); Boyd (O'Connor 65)
BOHEMIANS – Supple, Pender, Cornwall, Byrne (Best 45), Fitzgerald; Morris; Kavanagh, Gannon, Poynton, Doyle (Simon 84); Corcoran (Casey 45)
Ref – R Harvey (Dublin)