One goal was the difference at Tolka Park tonight, as Shelbourne beat Shamrock Rovers B 3-2 to keep their promotion charge on track.
Shels were 3-0 up with five minutes left in the match through goals from Gary Dempsey, Jordan Keegan and Dylan Connolly.
Rovers substitute Mark Sandford was the cutting edge his side had lacked for most of the match though, and scored a brace in the dying minutes to leave the score at 3-2.
Dempsey hit a perfect free-kick on 11 minutes, leaving Rovers ‘keeper Michael Kelly marooned as the ball sailed past the wall and into the top-right corner of the goal.
That goal was well-deserved after a good start from Shels, but after it the home side became complacent. Rovers B had most of the ball for large periods of the first half, but couldn’t create any chances.
Even when Greg Murray’s botched clearance from the Shels goal on 25 minutes looked like it had presented the Hoops with a goal, Chris Lyons was fended off by Lee Desmond.
That failure to punish Shels came back to haunt Rovers on 34 minutes, when Jordan Keegan doubled the score. Dylan Connolly and Keegan broke together from midfield after a Hoops attack, and Keegan slotted the ball calmly past Kelly.
Rovers had their first real chance of the before the break, with Daniel Purdy’s low free-kick from just outside the Shels box forcing a fine save out of an outstretched Greg Murray.
A lengthy stoppage while Murray was treated for an injury meant it took a while for the match to get into any sort of rhythm again in the. Shels were again sloppy on the ball, but still Rovers weren’t able to take advantage.
On 77 minutes, Rovers defender Maxime Veuille clumsily brought down Jodan Keegan when the latter was through on the Hoops goal. Veuille was sent off for this offence, and the resulting penalty was duly dispatched by Dylan Connolly.
The late stages of the match saw the relatively toothless Rovers again enjoy more time on the ball, but still they didn’t seem to be able to make any sort of dent on the scoreline.
That is, until Mark Sandford struck a low, powerful shot from about 30 yards out on 86 minutes. It was a wonder goal, but it seemed destined to be no more than a consolation.
But substitute Sandford had other plans, and popped up three minutes later to slide in another goal after some poor defending from Shels. It made for a nervy last few minutes for Shelbourne, but they were able to see out the match for a 3-2 win.
Shelbourne: Greg Murray [Nathan Murphy ‘63]; Brian Gannon [Ryan Robinson HT], John Sullivan, Lee Desmond, Philip Hand; Gary Dempsey, Luke Gallagher; Dylan Connolly [Lee Murtagh ‘82], Alan O’Sullivan; Jordan Keegan; Conor Murphy.
Unused Subs: Jake Donnelly, Gareth Coughlan, Lee Duffy.
Yellow Cards: Alan O’Sullivan.
Shamrock Rovers: Michael Kelly; Alan Kehoe, Sean Heaney, Michael Kelly, Maxime Veuille, Ryan Doolin, Jack Watson [Azeez Yussef ‘68], Cian Kavanagh, Daniel Purdy, Chris Lyons [Mark Sandford ‘68], Dylan Kavanagh [Nathan Brown ‘79].
Unused Subs: Richard Fitzgibbon, Liam Traynor, Evan Osam, Adam Whelan.
Yellow Cards: Michael Kelly, Cian Kavanagh.
Red Card: Maxime Veuille.
Referee: Ray Matthews.
Attendance: 627 (official figure).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary Dempsey.