Sport Soccer

Friday 23 March 2018

Toothless Rovers fail to frighten Fenlon


THEY don't hand trophies out in April, but the watching Pat Fenlon must have felt like he already had one hand on another league title if this Shamrock Rovers side are to prove their main challengers this season.

Three games on their home turf now and the Tallaght outfit have yet to win. The 3,500 fans in attendance last night may have been a little more forgiving in the aftermath of this draw, only for the fact that the hosts were so poor.

In the opening half there were too many deficiencies to list. Moving forward, they constantly looked stuck in second gear, with the full-backs' apparent persistence to resort to the long ball frustrating the fans and manager alike.

Former Northern Ireland international Michael O'Neill was a quiet presence on the sideline last season but midway through the first half last night, after Enda Stevens chose to lump the ball hopelessly forward rather than pick out Billy Dennehy on the wing, a red-faced O'Neill let out a yelp that could have been heard from the club's birth place in Ringsend.

After their last defeat to St Patrick's Athletic, O'Neill found himself stuck for answers as to why they were playing so badly, stating specifically they'd had a successful pre-season. But, truthfully, this Rovers side is currently playing like one still mired in the opening weeks of pre-season fare.

Robert Bayly looks half the player he was for Sporting Fingal, and up front Graham Barrett, while undoubtedly talented, does not yet look physically up to the rigours of Premier Division football after his lengthy injury woes.

The acquisition of Thomas Stewart would have had the home fans praying that their strike options would be significantly bolstered, but, having only received clearance to play this week, he struggled to adjust.

The best chance of the first half, however, fell to the former Derry man when he flicked on Sean O'Connor's volleyed cross with a deft header, but Billy Brennan saved brilliantly.

While UCD were playing all the football, they were limited to only a few openings, the best of which fell to David McMillan. The home side pushed forward late on but never created any clear-cut openings and the boos rang out on the final whistle to confirm that the pressure is now well and truly on O'Neill.

SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus; Chambers, Sives, Murray, Stevens (Murphy 59); O'Connor (Cahill 59), Rice, Bayly, Dennehy; Barrett (Cowan 77), Stewart.

UCD -- Brennan; Shortall (Harding 90), Boyle, E McMillan, Nangle; Rusk, McMahon, Bolger, Creevy (Corry 68), D McMillan (Ward 84); Kilduff.

REF -- R Winter (Dublin).

Irish Independent

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