Zayed stakes claim for more game time with wonder strike
Shamrock Rovers 1 Athlone Town 0
With his cracking winner at Tallaght Stadium, Eamon Zayed hopes he has reaffirmed his worth to Shamrock Rovers.
On as a substitute five minutes earlier, Zayed struck on 66 minutes to score with an audacious diagonal volley to put Rovers top of the table.
It was the Libya international's third goal of the campaign, but his frustration is born from the fact he has started just three of Rovers' 13 league games this season.
Though the goal was worthy of winning any match, Rovers struggled to press home their dominance throughout a one-sided encounter with Athlone.
Ciaran Kilduff should have doubled their winning margin on 81 minutes, Gary McCabe hit a post with a free-kick, while Marty Waters was guilty of a bad double miss in the first half.
"Ronan put the ball over the top, initially I was looking to cross, but I think it bounced and sat up nicely to be hit," said 30-year-old Zayed on one of the best goals of his career. "Most of my goals were inside the box, not outside. It's nice when you get them."
The goal didn't alter Zayed's irritation at his lack of regular game time. "We play the 4-3-3 formation a lot, so we have one up top and 'Killer' (Ciaran Kilduff) has done well. He has scored five goals and assisted a few as well. It's frustrating watching. I want to play."
Kilduff was in a similar position last season; he left Rovers for Cork City on loan mid-term and scored 11 goals in 14 games to revitalise his career.
"I need to play," was Zayed's answer when asked whether he was considering such action in this July window. "He knows that himself, Trevor (Croly). I've chatted to him about it. At the moment I can't do anything except get on to try and take my chance.
"He (Kilduff) did really well with Cork. We're coming up to (July) so we'll see what happens. I'm not arguing with (team) selection or anything like that because most of the games we've done quite well. We're top of the league. From a team perspective it's going well.
"But from an individual perspective, I'm at an age where I need to play week in, week out. I'm out of contract here at the end of the season.
"So for me to keep playing professional football, I need to be playing regularly and scoring goals regularly to secure a contract next year."
When pressed on Zayed's frustration, manager Croly said: "That's something we deal with privately. Everyone wants to be playing, but if he keeps doing what he's doing... he's doing fantastic and I'm delighted for him."
Shamrock Rovers – Murphy; Madden, Cornwall, McGuinness, Byrne; Brennan (Zayed 61), McPhail; McCabe, Finn, Waters (S O'Connor 61); Kilduff.
Athlone Town – Skinner; Quigley (McMahon, 82), Prendergast, D Brennan (Marks, 71) Clancy; A Byrne; Rusk, Dillon, O'Brien, S Brennan (Sweeney, 82); Gorman.
REF – D McKeon (Dublin).