League Report: Finn Harps 0 - 1 Shamrock Rovers

Sat, Mar 23 2019

Greg Bolger (left) celebrates scoring the winner in Finn Park Credit: Clare McCahill (ETPhotos)

Macdara Ferris reports from Finn Park

Shamrock Rovers moved seven points clear at the top of the table thanks to Greg Bolger's late winner for the Hoops in Ballybofey.

Stephen Bradley’s decision to reject the option of having the game postponed, as regular starters Trevor Clarke and Jack Byrne – along with Brandon Kavanagh – were all on international duty, paid off.

The Hoops came away with the sixth win from their first eight games of the season - their best return from the opening of a campaign for 20 years.

As expected Sean Kavanagh and Dylan Watts came into the away team's starting line up in place of Clarke and Byrne, with under-19 players Darragh Nugent and Thomas Oluwya named as substitutes on the bench.

It was Watts who came closest to opening the scoring in the first half.

His long range shot had Ciaran Gallagher diving full length to turn away the ball from goal with a decent save.

At the other end Harps failed to threaten Alan Mannus' goal in the game.

The home side did use opportunities from set pieces – with Caolán McAleer’s precise delivery – along with long throws that came their way to get the ball into the Rovers box but couldn’t create anything meaningful.

The Rovers defence have been miserly all season and they shutout any real offensive threat from Ollie Horgan’s men as the Hoops kept their sixth clean sheet of the season pretty much with ease. 

Harps defended resolutely themselves though, pressing Rovers high up the pitch trying to force errors that they could exploit.

Rovers looked to move the ball from side to side and pick passes in between the blue shirts but the bounce of the ball always seemed to go the way of the home team in and around the Harps box.

Aaron Greene, as he has done on a couple of occasions already this year, had the ball in the back of the net, only for a goal to be ruled out for offside, although this time it seemed to be a correct call from the referee’s assistant.

The home side reduced Rovers to a few pot shots from distance and seemed happy to be hanging on for a draw before five minutes time Harps hearts were broken.

When the ball broke to Bolger at the edge of the box, he rifled it home for Rovers for the winner to send the travelling supporters into raptures, while the Harps supporters must wait longer for their first win on the season.

The victory puts considerable daylight between Rovers and second placed Dundalk, although the Lilywhites have two games in hand. 

Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Sam Todd, Keith Cowan, Niall Logue; Colm Deasy, John Kavanagh, Mark Coyle, Jacob Borg (Raffaele Cretaro 69), Daniel O’Reilly; Nathan  Boyle (Mikey Place 82), Caolán McAleer. 

Subs not used: Colm Deasy, Mark Russell, Niall Logue, Peter Burke, Tony McNamee.

Booked: Keith Cowan (56).

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh; Aaron McEneff (Joel Coustrain 65), Greg Bolger; Dylan Watts, Ronan Finn (c), Dan Carr (Orhan Vojic 76); Aaron Greene (Sam Bone 87).

Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Darragh Nugent, Thomas Oluwya, Dean Dillon.

Booked: None.  

Referee: Derek Tomney.

Attendance: 1,200 (estimate).

Extratime Player of the Match: Greg Bolger (Shamrock Rovers).