Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Greg Bolger got the winner for Shamrock Rovers in a 1-0 victory over Finn Harps at Tallaght on Friday just like he did in Ballybofey back in March. The Hoops were the superior team in the game but Harps played well – defending deep but also causing the makeshift Rovers back three some difficulty on occasions in the match
The first chance of the game fell to Finn Harps and Alan Mannus did well to be patient and stand up to save Nathan Boyle’s close range shot after just two minutes. While Harps showed some early attacking threat – against a team they have failed to score against in the five matches between the teams this season – Ollie Horgan did deploy a flat back five to nullify Rovers offensive players.
Stephen Bradley made six changes to his starting XI from last Saturday’s scoreless draw in Sligo including bringing Republic of Ireland international Graham Burke back into the team. The player – on loan from Preston – went close on six minutes with a shot from distance that clipped the side netting of Mark McGinley’s goal.
Rovers captain Ronan Finn, deployed by Bradley at wing back, put in a very dangerous cross on 24 minutes that was inches away from Aaron Greene getting on the end. Harps won a corner a couple of minutes later and Tony McNamee’s centre was headed on target by Sam Todd but Mannus gathered easily.
Just after the half hour mark, Neil Farrugia – who put in lively debut for the Hoops – put in a cross that Brandon Kavanagh acrobatically sent over his own shoulder but also just over the crossbar.
At the other end there was a half-hearted shout for a penalty when Nathan Boyle went over in the box while Sam Todd also got a header on target from a Tony McNamee corner that required Mannus to save.
Rovers stepped it up after the break and forced a number of corners in the opening ten minutes of the second period. From one of them cleared by Harps but directed back in deep by Sean Kavanagh Ronan Finn saw his shot from a tight angle saved by Mark McGinley as the ‘keeper pushed it out off the post.
Bradley brought Aaron McEneff on and his shot on 74 minutes forced McGinley into a save diving low to the goalkeeper’s left.
The ‘keeper did brilliantly with a double save first from Dylan Watts before he got back up to turn away a close in Burke effort.
That all came a minute after Nathan Boyle had a brilliant opportunity to put Harps in the lead when he was one-one-one with Mannus. However, the Hoops netminder forced him wide and the angle was too acute for him to shoot and he couldn’t then find a teammate.
It was a costly miss as on 79 minutes Greg Bolger rifled home the winner with his left foot. His drilled shot ripped into the top corner of the net to hand the Hoops all three points and their fifth win from five against Finn Harps this year.
With Cork City defeating UCD it means Harps cannot catch City above them in the table but with a vastly superior goal difference as they are six points clear of the Students with two games remaining Ollie Horgan’s men are set for the relegation/promotion play off final later in the month.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Kavanagh, Lee Grace, Daniel Lafferty; Ronan Finn ©, Greg Bolger, Brandon Kavanagh (Aaron McEneff 72), Dylan Watts, Neil Farrugia (Eric Abulu 76); Graham Burke; Aaron Greene (Graham Cummins 86).
Subs not used: Kian Clarke (gk), Ethan Boyle, Danila Bogdanov, Alex Dunne.
Booked: Graham Burke (19), Greg Bolger (69).
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Colm Deasy, Harry Ascroft, Josh Smith, Sam Todd, Mark Russell; Gareth Harkin ©, Ruairi Harkin (Shaun Doherty 80); Tony McNamee, Nathan Boyle (Mikey Place 86), Mark Timlin (Daniel O’Reilly 69).
Subs not used: Ciaran Gallagher (gk), Jacob Borg, Niall Logue, Raff Cretaro.
Booked: Harry Ashcroft (55), Sam Todd (61), Tony McNamee (81), Gareth Harkin (90+1), Mikey Place (90+3).
Referee: Derek Tomney
Attendance: 2,000 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Neil Farrugia (Shamrock Rovers).