Hyland howler ends Hoops hopes
Despite a much improved display, Shamrock Rovers bowed out of the Europa League in Rovaniemi last night.
RoPS Rovaniemi 1 Shamrock Rovers 1 (RoPS win 3-1 on aggregate)
Though Gary McCabe gave them a fully deserved lead, it was Rovers who came bearing gifts to the home of Santa Claus.
That came in the guise of Craig Hyland's goalkeeping mistake which presented RoPS with a soft equaliser.
Caretaker manager Stephen Bradley made a bold team selection, leaving club captain Stephen McPhail on the bench as McCabe came into midfield to skipper the side. Gavin Brennan dropped back to left-back in place of the injured David O'Connor.
And there was a positivity and vibrancy about Rovers from the start, with Clarke, lively when he came on last week, central to their early probings.
Macedonian referee Dejan Jakimovski was unimpressed when Clarke appeared to be taken down in the area by RoPS captain Abdou Jammeh on three minutes.
Minutes later Simon Madden found space on the right from full-back for the first time to cross the ball for Clarke, who could only plant his header over the bar.
Rovers finally got their reward on 22 minutes after Juha Pirinen pulled down Clarke inside the penalty area, a surging run by Brandon Miele having set up the chance.
Despite attempts at some mind-games from goalkeeper Antonio Reguero, McCabe calmly slotted the penalty into the net.
Just when they looked right back in the tie, Rovers conceded a shocking equaliser five minutes later.
A howler by Hyland, whose clearance went straight to William Oluremi John, gifted the RoPS striker the chance to square the ball for Eetu Muinonen to tap it into the unguarded net.
Remarkably, Hyland repeated the mistake before half-time, but this time his clearance cannoned out off John for a goal-kick.
Rovers came close to grabbing a lifeline on 66 minutes. Reguero made a terrific save to deny Madden after a good one-two with Patrick Cregg and the rebound fell for Gary Shaw, whose shot was brilliantly blocked by Juuso Hamalainen.
The Hoops stuck to their task and substitute Sean Boyd went close in the last minute.
RoPS Rovaniemi 1
Shamrock Rovers 1
Shamrock Rovers - Hyland; Madden, Cornwall, Heaney, G Brennan; Cregg, K Brennan; Miele (T Clarke, 67), McCabe, D Clarke (Boyd, 73); Shaw (Dobbs, 73).