Sheppard guides Rovers to victory
Shamrock Rovers 1 Bohemians 0
AIDAN PRICE used to proudly wear the Shamrock Rovers armband. Last night, he made his first visit to Tallaght in a Bohemians jersey and contributed to defeat with a foul on its temporary holder.
The Gypsies were already a goal down to their arch-rivals when Gary Twigg, the Rovers skipper for the evening, was released early in the second half with just Chris O'Connor to beat.
A back-tracking Price impeded Twigg, who was only able to muster a scuffed shot on goal from outside the area although the visitors' bench were sure that Twigg was in an offside position. The officials didn't agree and after referee Alan Kelly spotted the infringement, he reached into his pocket for a red card.
The sympathetic round of applause from the home fans -- who retain Price in high regard because of his leading role in the club's rebirth -- was little consolation. For the first time in a Rovers-Bohs derby at Tallaght, he would end the night in a losing dressing-room.
Or, as it's otherwise known, the away dressing-room. This was the fifth league meeting between the sides in Dublin 24, and all have ended in victory for Michael O'Neill's Rovers.
They actually suffered one or two nervy moments after Price's dismissal before regrouping to use their numerical advantage to eke out a win courtesy of a first-half Karl Sheppard strike, his eighth of the season in all competitions.
O'Neill had looked for a response from his players after a turgid display in Bray last Thursday. He eventually got it in a first half that started brightly, quickly descended into tedium, before a flurry of activity before the interval which resulted in the Hoops going in ahead.
There were nervous moments at either end in the opening stages but, after that, the game was notable for a few tasty challenges.
O'Neill left skipper Dan Murray on the bench, with Craig Sives and ex-Gypsy Ken Oman partnered in the heart of defence. They had a nervous moment when Anto Flood, deployed on the right wing, ghosted into the box untroubled but shot wildly off target.
Crucially, the hosts had Ronan Finn available after he missed the Bray game, and his influence was apparent in a bright spell shy of the interval. However, the 42nd-minute opener was all about two other winter recruits, with Gary McCabe swinging in a superb right-foot cross from the left flank into the path of Sheppard, who got the directions just right by slipping away from Ger O'Brien and dispatching a header beyond O'Connor.
Bohs then had two escapes before the break, with Sives off target from a Stephen O'Donnell corner, and then Finn producing a weak shot when in space.
It meant that the visitors went to the dressing-room with a hill to climb. Seven minutes after the restart, it was a mountain when Price was given his marching orders. Pat Fenlon reshuffled and, to his team's credit, they responded by creating their best chance of the match in a period where Rovers players were forgetting how to pass from A to B.
Bohs youngster Stephen Traynor produced an incisive pass to find Robert Bayly, who in turn released Chris Fagan. Faced with a clear run on goal, the lone striker lacked assurance and failed to nick the ball around the advancing Alan Mannus. He'll be avoiding the replay.
The Phibsborough men continued to press, however, and while it inevitably left gaps at the other end, both Killian Brennan and Fagan called Mannus into further action.
O'Neill decided to bring on another forward with Gary O'Neill introduced to convert the original 4-2-3-1 into a 4-4-2.
It helped to turn the tide as Fenlon sent for three teenagers from the bench in an attempt to freshen up his side's tired limbs. But Bohs were increasingly under pressure with O'Connor keeping the margin at the minimum with a fine block from Sives in a crowded area.
Sub Billy Dennehy wasted another chance on the counter, and Twigg was inches away from breaching the last line of Bohs' defence on a number of occasions in a frantic conclusion.
The sum total was a more anxious three minutes of injury-time than the majority of the crowd might have anticipated. In the end, they had a win to celebrate, while an irate Fenlon rushed to remonstrate with the match officials.
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Sullivan, Oman, Sives, Stevens; O'Donnell (O'Neill 68), Turner (McCormack 84), Finn; Sheppard (Dennehy 76), McCabe; Twigg.
Bohemians -- O'Connor, Heary, Burns (Feely 86), Price, O'Brien; Flood (Dixon 81), Bayly (Buckley 81), Cronin, Brennan; Traynor; Fagan.
Ref -- A Kelly (Cork).
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