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Hughes hits double to keep Shels on march

A year ago today, excited Shamrock Rovers' fans woke in anticipation of their Europa League group stage debut against Rubin Kazan. This morning, they are are facing the very real prospect of no European football in 2013.

They need favours now, and this deserved FAI Cup quarter-final defeat has severely weakened caretaker manager Stephen Glass' chances of keeping the job.

Shelbourne, on the other hand, are on a redemption mission after their Aviva Stadium heartache last November.

They are 90 minutes away from a return to domestic football's showpiece, and if Philip Hughes can reproduce this performance in the semi-finals then Alan Mathews will fancy his chances.

Secure

The errors that cost Stephen Kenny his job returned to haunt the Hoops. Indeed, the tone was set when the disappointing right-full Kerrea Gilbert miscontrolled with his first touch.

Defensively, the Hoops have struggled throughout the campaign so even though they started the game reasonably well in an attacking sense, they never looked secure. It might have been a different story if they'd taken the lead when Thomas Stewart's header was expertly saved by Chris Bennion.

Shels lead goal, on the half hour mark, was borne from more poor Rovers defending as Pat Sullivan, stepping in for the injured Colin Hawkins at centre-half, got his wires crossed with left-back Shane O'Connor, and Shels broke at pace. Ex-Hoop David Cassidy could have gone for glory, but wisely squared for Hughes who finished expertly.

Rovers were on the ropes and needed goalkeeper Oscar Jansson to keep them within touching distance as he saved Stephen Paisley's left-footed effort.

Still, Shels probed, and Hughes was the focal point. The stocky frontman has caused problems for the champions consistently this term, and his speed of thought was too quick for their rearguard again just a minute shy of the interval. He cushioned a Cassidy through ball onto his chest, and instinctively clipped it towards the area before Ken Oman brought him to the ground. The only recognised central defender in the Rovers squad was the last man, so referee Alan Kelly reached for a red card.

With a defence out of tune all evening, Glass was forced to use Gilbert and Sullivan to stem the Shels tide.

Rovers left injury doubt Gary Twigg on the bench for the duration, and brought in Sean Gannon and Conor McCormack for the second half to cope with the fall-out from Oman's dismissal and a head injury to Stephen Rice sustained in a collission that also took out Shels' Glen Cronin.

Operating in a 4-4-1, the Tallaght men almost levelled when Stewart who curled over as they, briefly enjoyed a period in command. However, their good spell lacked penetration, and with 19 minutes left Shels finished them off as Hughes headed Paddy Kavanagh's cross in for his 16th goal of the campaign.

More pertinently, it is the 36th that Rovers have conceded. A comical injury time consolation stemming from the boot of Gannon made no difference.

Shelbourne -- Bennion, Ryan, Boyle, Paisley, Byrne; Cassidy, Cronin (Hurley 44), Dawson, Kavanagh; Hughes (Murphy 86), Gorman (P Byrne 55).

Shamrock Rovers -- Jansson, Gilbert, Oman, Sullivan, O'Connor; Stewart (Kavanagh 75), Finn, Rice (McCormack 45), Brennan, McCabe (Gannon 45), Kilduff.

REF -- Alan Kelly (Cork).

Irish Independent