Damien Duff watches on as Shamrock Rovers suffer Europa League defeat
Shamrock Rovers 0 Odds BK 2
SHAMROCK ROVERS will have to engineer an extraordinary turnaround in Norway next Thursday after a two goal defeat they could have avoided.
Pat Fenlon's side lost out to a physically stronger team that was also smarter on the night.
Yet the frustration for Rovers will be borne from the fact that an unnecessary penalty concession and a straightforward corner secured the vital goals for the visitors.
The Dubliners were nowhere near as clinical when it came to the crunch, with this performance exposing areas where improvement is required if they are to catch Dundalk.
The weather altered dramatically in a first half that was otherwise short on suspense. Driving rain and strong gusts of wind created a scene that was more December than July.
For Damien Duff, sitting in the stand watching his new colleagues, this was another reminder of the delights of Irish weather compared to his Australian experience.
He initially had reason to be satisfied with what he was watching on the pitch as a Rovers started well against a team that finished third in the Norwegian league last term, but currently sit seventh in the table. They were combative in a tetchy affair with the Swiss match official Alain Rieri kept plenty busy.
The keepers had less to do before the interval, however, although home netminder Craig Hyland had to stay focused for a series of corner kicks that were well defended by the Airtricity League side.
Territorially, Odds were spending more time in the opposition half, yet they lacked real creativity. There were glimpses of quality from midfield Jone Samuelsen, a Norwegian international, but Patrick Cregg snapped away at his heels.
In truth, the best chances fell to Rovers. Gary McCabe, deployed in a deeper role with both Keith Fahey and Stephen McPhail on the sidelines, was prominently involved. Untimely fitness problems have certainly stiffened Rovers' European task.
McCabe already had a rasping shot saved by Sondre Rossbach before he delivered a set piece from the training ground which should have broken the deadlock. He picked out Ryan Brennan, with the Drogheda man’s header across the box eventually falling to Kieran Marty Waters who fired over.
After the rain stayed away for the interval, it resumed in tandem with the game. Odds made a switch at the break, with Ardian Gashi hauled off following a volatile showing which featured a booking.
Rovers broke smartly and their endeavours were almost rewarded when Mikey Drennan's powerful volley was pushed away by Rossbach.
The near miss became even more painful as Odds seized the initiative in the 52nd minute when the fit again Conor Kenna was deemed to have illegally halted Fredrik Nordkevlle's advance into the area. Canadian Olivier Occean adroitly slotted away the resultant penalty.
After a scare when Rossbach fumbled a Drennan daisycutter only to make a last gasp recovery, Odds sensed the opportunity for another as Fenlon looked for the right moment to bring in-form youngster Brandon Miele in off the bench. Unfortunately, he only arrived after a second away goal in the 67th minute.
Rovers had been disciplined in defending the consistent steam of corners arising from Odds pressure. That was until Occean rose above Dave Webster to power a header past Hyland. It was simply too easy.
In response, the Hoops made the art of goalscoring look very difficult as Ryan Brennan flapped at a clearcut opening and idle bodies failed to anticipate a cross that ran across the six yard box.
Danny North, who has kept the medical staff occupied since his winter move, was sprung from the bench with ten minutes to go with the hope that his predatory instinct would locate the right place at the right time. That moment failed to materialise.
Shamrock Rovers: Hyland, Madden, Kenna, Webster, Byrne; Cregg, McCabe; G Brennan (North 80), R Brennan (C Kavanagh 85), Waters (Miele 67); Drennan
Odds BK: Lovset, Rudd, Eriksen, Hagen, Jonassen; Gashi (Jensen 45); Halvorsen, Nordkvelle, Samuelsen, Akabueze (Storbaek 82); Occean (Bergan 85)
Referee: A Bieri (Switzerland)