Shamrock Rovers made it a hat-trick of penalty shoot out wins from three different cup competitions this season as they progressed to the semi-final of the EA Sports Cup at the expense of Saint Patrick’s Athletic. The teams were deadlocked in Richmond Park after both 90 and 120 minutes following first half goals from Killian Brennan for Rovers and Sean O’Connor for the home team. In the penalty shoot out, Rovers keeper Reyaad Pieterse was the hero as he saved two penalties setting up Conor McCormack to score the winning spot kick as Rovers progressed 4-2 on penalties.
The opening goal of the game came after just six minutes and it went to Shamrock Rovers. The fault for the concession of the goal rested with Aidan Price. The Pats centre-back played a free kick in his own half straight to Killian Brennan who moved forward playing a neat one-two with Gary O’Neill. Price then took down Brennan as the Rovers winger went by him on the edge of the box. Price went in referee Damien Hancock’s book and the ball went in the Pats net from the subsequent free that was dispatched by Brennan with his lethal left foot.
The visitors looked to add to their lead on 14 minutes when Gary O’Neill created himself a good opportunity with a neat turn and shot but it drifted well wide of Barry Murphy in the Pats goal. Two minutes later Rovers full back Conor Powell misdirected a pass in a dangerous position allowing Saints striker Ian Daly to cut towards goal but Craig Sives got Rovers out of trouble with a timely challenge on Daly.
Rovers conceded a number of corners and a couple of free kicks around the edge of the area throughout the first half. However, Pats couldn’t capitalise on Sean O’Connor’s and James Chambers’ deliveries with the dead ball as the Rovers defence stood tall.
The home sides best dead ball opportunity came on 21 minutes after a mistake by Reyaad Pieterse in the Rovers goal. The South African goalkeeper could count himself lucky that he didn’t receive a red card for the incident. He came for a ball at the edge of the box and under pressure from Daly handled outside the area but with a Rovers defender in close proximity the ref only produced a yellow card. The resulting free went straight in the Rovers wall.
Pat’s got a deserved equaliser on twenty seven minutes after a fine run by John Russell. He picked up the ball in the centre circle when Rovers were looking for a free kick as Powell lost the ball under pressure. He drove down the right, turned inside Craig Sives and laid the ball back to Pat Flynn. The left back put a fine ball into the back post where former Rovers player Sean O’Connor headed back across and into the far corner of the goal to make it 1-1.
The home team had a chance to go in front on 35 minutes when Jake Kelly fired a shot away from just outside the area but Reyaad was well placed and gathered the shot cleanly. Rovers moved up field quickly with Chris Turner getting around the back of Jake Carroll but Sean O’Connor tracked back well and his touch put the ball out for a Rovers corner that the Hoops couldn’t make use of.
In the second half, Stephen Kenny pushed Aaron Greene wide on the right to provide Rovers with additional support against the five man Saints midfield going with a 4-2-3-1 system. The first chance of the second half fell to Rovers with Brennan getting his head on a long Stephen Rice throw but the Louthman’s header looped over the bar and onto the top of the net.
A lovely passage of play from the Saints carved the Rovers defence open after 51 minutes. Daly laid the ball back to O’Connor who exchanged a couple of passes with Greg Bolger but O’Connor’s shot couldn’t find the target. It was a similar result from Bolger’s shot as he wrapped his right foot around the ball but with Pieterse diving full length the ball just drifted wide of the Rovers goal.
Just ahead of the hour mark, Rovers began to exert some decent pressure on the Saints goal. The Pats ‘keeper Barry Murphy had to be on his toes to cut out a dangerous ball across the six yard box from Greene after Brennan played him in. Next Gary O’Neill turned on the edge of the box and dispatched a shot with his right foot but Murphy diving to his right held onto the ball.
O’Neill created a chance for Greene on 65 minutes when he did well to hold up a long ball that came up to him to play in Greene. Price out-stretched leg blocked Greene’s shot in the penalty area. Price then got caught in possession allowing Chris Turner push forward on 72 minutes but his shot was very weak from the edge of the box.
Pieterse was well positioned to pick up a stinging shot from Saints substitute Chris Forrester and he then tipped Bolger’s effort around the post diving full length with 15 minutes of normal time remaining in the game. Next Powell allowed a centre from Daly to reach O’Connor who turned the left back right and left but his shot was easily gathered by the Rovers ‘keeper.
Chambers had the first chance of extratime with a free that fizzed just by the Rovers post. The opportunity arose after Powell had taken down Russell with a very heavy challenge that saw him become the fifth Rovers player in referee Hancock’s book.
The game opened up with space being created as players tired during extratime. A minute before the break in the additional 30 minutes, Bolger lofted a great cross into the Rovers box. Forrester, running across Kerrea Glibert, got his head to it but it looped over the bar without troubling Pieterse.
With 12 minutes remaining John Russell’s mazy run ended with him pulling the trigger only have it blocked by Craig Sives after the Pats midfielder had ghosted by a couple of Rovers players on the edge of the box. Then Russell pushed a ball to O’Connor on the edge of the box but his shot went ride on the right of the Rovers goal. Rovers had a number of late chance with McCabe getting a shot away that Murphy gathered and they had a corner in injury time in extra time as the game headed for penalties.
Rovers had the advantage in the shoot out going first and playing into the shed end where the Rovers fans were positioned. The first five penalties were scored with Gary McCabe, Sean O’Connor, Stephen O’Donnell, John Russell and Gary Twigg making no mistake. However, Pieterse saved the next two diving full length to his right saving James Chambers and Ian Daly’s spot kicks. Barry Murphy did save Aaron Greene’s effort pushing it onto the bar but when Conor McCormack drove his spot kick down the middle and into the roof of the net, Rovers moved on to the semi-final.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Barry Murphy; Pat Flynn, Conor Kenna (c) (Ger O’Brien 90), Aidan Price (Kenny Browne 78), Jake Carroll; Jake Kelly (Chris Forrester 54), John Russell, Greg Bolger, James Chambers, Sean O’Connor; Ian Daly.
Subs Not Used: Brendan Clarke, Ian Bermingham, Darren Meenan, Stephen O’Flynn.
Bookings: Price (5), Russell (43), Flynn (68), Forrester (100).
Shamrock Rovers: Reyaad Pieterse; Kerrea Gilbert, Colin Hawkins, Craig Sives, Conor Powell; Killian Brennan (Gary McCabe 78), Stephen Rice (c), Stephen O’Donnell, Chris Turner (Conor McCormack 110); Gary O’Neill (Gary Twigg 88), Aaron Greene.
Subs not used: Oscar Jansson, Graham Gartland, Lorcan Shannon, Jack Memery.
Bookings: Pieterse (21), K Brennan (56), S O’Donnell (73), Hawkins (90), Powell (92).
Referee: Damien Hancock.
ExtraTime Man of the Match: Sean O’Connor (St Pats Ath).
Macdara made his debut as a football supporter in Lansdowne Road watching Ireland defeat Luxembourg. He still believes one day he will see his club Shamrock Rovers win an FAI Cup. You can follow Macdara on twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/macdarabueller">@macdarabueller</a>