A David Scullion goal was the difference between Shamrock Rovers and Coleraine in Tallaght Stadium on Monday evening.
A small attendance at Trevor Croly’s first competitive game in charge of Shamrock Rovers saw a relatively dull start to the game as both sides struggled to do much with the ball.
Rovers certainly had more of the possession in the opening ten minutes and it was the team in the green and white hoops who created the first chance of the match. A neat move saw new signing Mark Quigley lay the ball off to Sean O’Connor who hit a curling effort just past Michael Doherty’s post.
It was obvious from the start what sort of system Coleraine planned to play. Shane Jennings was the lone man up front but he saw very little of the ball in the early stages. The Tallaght side were dominant in possession as Coleraine looked content with a draw.
Rovers certainly didn’t look like a side who haven’t played a competitive for over three months as they passed the ball confidently around the midfield for long periods of play.
On 30 minutes the partnership of O’Connor and Quigley nearly paid dividends again for Rovers when Quigley latched onto a chipped pass from the former St. Pat’s man. Rovers’ new number nine was allowed too much space on the edge of the box as he turned and hit a dipping volley that grazed Doherty’s crossbar.
Just one minute later and it was Rovers who threatened the Coleraine goal again. A Sean O’Connor cross from the left wing was flicked on by Stephen Rice in the direction of Karl Sheppard but he failed to direct the ball on target.
Despite offering little or nothing in the way of chances for the entire first half it was Coleraine who took a shock lead on the brink of half-time. A long ball over the Rovers defence fell to the feet of substitute David Scullion and the Coleraine man advanced into the box from the left-wing before coolly chipping over Barry Murphy to give the Bannsiders the lead going into the break.
Four minutes into the second-half Rovers threatened again. A James Chambers free-kick from the right wing was met by the head of Pat Sullivan at the back post, forcing Doherty to parry it out for a corner.
In the 55th minute Coleraine nearly caught Rovers out a second time. A neat through ball from Shane Jennings saw the goalscorer, David Scullion, through on goal again. However, on this occasion, his attempted chip flew high over the bar.
O’Connor continued to threaten for Rovers. In the 61st minute his low shot from the edge of the box was deflected away from goal and out for a corner kick. For all of the Hoops’ possession though they still couldn’t find the target.
Just a few minutes later and it was O’Connor threatening again. This time it was a free-kick from the right-hand side of the box which dipped nicely over the wall but was excellently saved by Doherty.
On 69 minutes the home fans were claiming a penalty after Ronan Finn was brought down just outside the box. The referee made the right decision in awarding a free-kick however. Once again it was O’Connor who stepped up but he fired agonisingly wide.
At this stage the Rovers players and fans were beginning to get frustrated at their inability to find an equaliser. This was seen when James Chambers blasted a shot wide from just outside the box when a pass would have been the much better option.
Coleraine were holding tight at the back as they had done all game but they almost caught the Hoops on the counter-attack again after 83 minutes. Michael Hegarty managed to find a completely unmarked Stephen Lowry in the Rovers box but the midfielder shot over the bar from close range when he really should have scored.
The closing stages saw Rovers camped in the Coleraine half as they desperately pushed for a goal. With the last kick of the game Trevor Croly’s men almost got out of jail when a Gary McCabe free-kick from the edge of the box looked to be heading into the top corner but another superb save from Doherty pushed it onto the post.
In the end it was a case of not being at all clinical in front of goal for Croly’s men. Coleraine were well disciplined in defence throughout the game and stuck exactly to their game plan, showing that hard work does pay off. Rovers should go up north with confidence next week however as they looked comfortable on the ball and seem to be well organised under their new manager.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Pat Sullivan, Jason McGuinness, Ken Oman, Conor Powell; Karl Sheppard, Stephen Rice, James Chambers (Shane Robinson, 85), Ronan Finn, Sean O’Connor (Thomas Stewart, 85); Mark Quigley (Gary McCabe, 58).
Subs not used: Conor Winn, Ciaran Kilduff, Conor McCormack, Derek Foran.
Coleraine: Michael Doherty; Aaron Canning, Howard Beverland, Michael Hegarty, David Ogilby; Michael Hegarty, Stephen Lowry, Ruairi Harkin (David Scullion, 41), Paul Owens (Johnny Watt, 85), Joel Bradley; Shane Jennings (Darren Boyce, 75).
Subs not used: Greg Shannon, Kyle McVey, Stuart McMullan, Jamie Tomelty.
Booked: Paul Owens (47), David Ogilby (62), Lowry (69).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Michael Doherty was excellent in the Coleraine goal as he kept them in the game with some superb saves.