Sunday 19 November 2017

Turner and Hoops send out message

Shamrock Rvs 2 St Pat's Ath 0

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THREE games into a new season is too early to draw firm conclusions, but there is an ominous manner about the way in which title holders Shamrock Rovers are racking up victories.

One of the few crumbs of comfort for the pretenders to Rovers' throne over the winter months was that by assembling such a quality squad, Michael O'Neill ran the risk of a slow start as new faces took time to adjust and he was left to figure out his best team.

The Hoops manager may still have to identify the right formula yet, despite failing to sparkle here, they ground out another win over an expected challenger to maintain their 100pc start to the campaign.

At this juncture last term, the Tallaght men fell short against their south Dublin rivals, a time when they occasionally looked uncomfortable at their fine new stadium. Now, it's beginning to resemble a little more of a fortress.

Still, they were given a tough examination by the Saints who had their boss, Pete Mahon, back on the touchline after he missed last week's dramatic reverse at the hands of Bray due to his mother's illness.


Despite a bright start, his side were a goal down within 11 minutes with Chris Turner producing a strike of quality from distance.

The Saints appeared happy enough to stand off the Northern Irish midfielder when he gained possession and, by the time they became aware it was a poor strategy, Turner had taken aim and fired a thunderbolt that fizzed past Rogers and into the net off the inside of the post.

Generally, an early goal does wonders for a game. Regrettably, this encounter bucked the trend with the first-half fare dropping in quality as the minutes ticked by. It descended into a scrappy midfield battle, disappointing considering the ability of some of the players involved.

Rovers netminder Alan Mannus had one nervous moment when he flapped at a Danny North strike that didn't seem to be goalbound. Generally, though, there was little to energise the 5,813 spectators until a minute before the interval when the league champions were presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to double their advantage.

Referee Tom Connolly awarded a relatively contentious penalty when a harmless Rovers punt forward was chased down by Gary O'Neill who fell to the ground under the attention of Evan McMillan. Connolly pointed to the spot without even dishing out a yellow card, a strange one considering some officials would have deemed it a professional foul.

Gary McCabe, on the mark in the first two league games, was thwarted on this occasion with Rogers getting down well to save.

It was a let-off for the Saints, and they burst out of the second-half blocks with purpose.

Nevertheless, they struggled to create real clear-cut chances, with both Shane McFaul and Anto Murphy having shots blocked in a period of early pressure.

They should have levelled at the midway point of the half, however, when ex-Hoop Stephen Bradley swung in a free that the unmarked Dave Mulcahy steered wide. Shortly after, Mannus was at full stretch to deny Ian Daly, with the Inchicore men upping the ante.

O'Neill sent Stephen Rice into the engine room, conscious that his side were perhaps lacking a bit of bite for this kind of encounter. He helped to stem the flow and, after a few dangerous set-piece deliveries came to nothing, the Saints lost their momentum.

They conceded a second as Mahon was preparing to make a double substitution. It was a landmark goal for Ken Oman, a recruit from Bohs.

The big defender rose highest to meet Billy Dennehy's teasing corner and seal three points on a night when every other top-flight game ended in a draw. Already, the chasing pack are playing catch-up.

Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Sullivan, Murray, Oman, Stevens; McCabe, Turner, Finn (Rice 73), Dennehy; Twigg (Sheppard, 81), O'Neill (Kilduff, 65).

St Patrick's Athletic -- Rogers, Pender, Mulcahy, E McMillan, Bermingham; Murphy, McFaul (Harney, 83), Bradley, D McMillan (Keegan, 83); North (Kavanagh, 67), Daly.

Ref -- T Connolly (Dublin)

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