Date: 8 p.m. March 18, 2011
Venue: Tallaght Stadium
Rovers may have had less of the ball in the opening stages of this game but territorial niceties do not always win football matches and when they broke forward it was with pace and confidence. St Pats, on the other hand, forayed regularly into Hooped territory but were were altogether more laboured on the ball.
The difference between the sides was exemplified in the eleventh minute when Gary McCabe picked up the ball on the right and played a smart pass to Ronan Finn who looked to have set his sights on a loping run across the edge of the attack line before flicking the ball to Chris Turner instead. One touch, and one crisp 25 yard drive later, and Pats were one down, the ball pinging off the inside of Gary Rogers right hand post before spinning across the back of the net.
The problem for Rovers was that they didn’t get forward often enough and in fairness to Pete Mahon’s men they deserve much credit for that. Both Evan McMillan and Dave Mulcahy stood tall against the frighteningly lively Gary O’Neill and his strike partner Gary Twigg. Derek Pender and Ian Bermingham were also sound in the full back berths despite regular surges from Billy Dennehy and Gary McCabe down the flanks.
Clear chances were thus kept to a minimum but just before the break Rovers should have had a second. Gary O’Neill chased a through ball into the Pat’s’ box which Rogers looked about to claim. But a clip from Evan McMillan sent O’Neill sprawling and referee Tom Connolly awarded the spot kick.
Gary McCabe, looking to score his third goal in three league starts for his new team, stepped up and directed a low shot towards the left hand corner. Rogers was down like a light, tipping the ball around his post while at full stretch, and in so doing he kept the game within reach for his team mates.
St Pats had a much more effective beginning to the second half with Ken Oman blocking a shot from Shane McFaul in the 49th minute and Anto Murphy heading a Bermingham cross over Alan Mannus’ crossbar three minutes later. Murphy had another chance when he got on the end of a Stephen Bradley free, only to see his shot deflected inches wide with Mannus scrambling to make up the ground.
Rovers threatened briefly to get their mojo back on track with a couple of breaks that had the St Pats defenders looking skyward under dangerous high balls but it was Pats who nearly scored on 67 minutes when Mulcahy should have done better than glance his header wide from a Bradley free.
Three minutes later Ian Daly caught Daryl Kavanagh’s cross on the volley and only an acrobatic tip over from Mannus kept Rovers in front. By degrees the tide had turned and just as the home sides’ aplomb had evaporated, St Pats had stepped forward with the better football.
Then we saw a devastating flash of what Rovers had been about in the first half. In the 81st minute Dennehy broke on the right, pushed the ball past Bermingham, and absolutely skinned the Pats defender. His cross was too deep but the ball was picked up by support troops and Pats were forced to concede a corner.
Dennehy delivered it and Ken Oman stretched forward at the six yard line to glance home his first goal for his new club. Dennehy might have added a third as all of the visitors’ hard work melted away, ultimately counting for nothing. Sub Karl Sheppard touched a ball to the winger in another surge down the right as the final whistle approached but Rogers palmed the shot away.
So a slightly testy performance from Rovers turned out to be enough to secure their third win from three and with that a sense of momentum that must already be worrying the rest of the Division.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Pat Sullivan, Dan Murray, Ken Oman, Enda Stevens; Gary McCabe, Chris Turner, Ronan Finn (Stephen Rice, 72), Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg (Karl Sheppard, 82), Gary O’Neill (Ciaran Kilduff, 65).
Subs not used: Ryan Thompson, Pat Flynn, Stephen O’Donnell, Paddy Kavanagh.
Bookings: Turner (14), Stevens (53).
Sendings Off: None.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Gary Rogers; Ian Bermingham, Dave Mulcahy, Evan McMillan, Derek Pender; Anto Murphy, Shane McFaul (Neil Harney, 82), Stephen Bradley, David McMillan (Jordan Keegan, 82); Danny North (Daryl Kavanagh, 68), Ian Daly.
Subs not used: Chris Bennion, James O’Brien, Sean Stewart, Jake Carroll.
Bookings: D McMillan (5), Bradley (59), Mulcahy (78).
Sendings Off: None.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Billy Dennehy.
Referee: Tom Connolly.