“Come on ref”, you could almost feel the crowd willing him. Alas, they’ll not mind now. One point behind the league leaders, the mammoth Rovers’ following at Tallaght Stadium would have waited a lot longer for someone to tell them that they are now most definitely in the hunt after a one-nil victory here against St Patrick’s Athletic.
After the delayed beginning, it took a while for both sides to get going. If the opening 15 minutes was quite evenly poised it was also somewhat scrappy. Only in the 18th minute Sean O’Connor picked up possession on the right wing and his quick feet fooled the back tracking Ryan Guy. Sensing the half chance, the former Pat’s man stuck a lethal left footed drive that shook the crossbar and arose the home crowd who were very much making their presence felt in the new east stand.
O’Connor was starting to cause all sorts of problems for Pat’s and in the 29th minute he found space for himself in the middle and pushed forward. He could see Gary Twigg was making the right run and the perfectly timed pass had the Scot bearing in on Gary Rogers. Goal on. With no chance of taking the ball, the pursuing Damian Lynch opted to take Twigg, pulling at his sleeve and arm. Eventually the striker went to ground and Lynch can have little complaint about the resultant red.
Twigg himself stepped up and sent the spot-kick low, powerful, and to the keepers’ right bagging his 19th league goal in what has been, thus far, player of the season form.
The Hoops seemed inspired now and with the large, indeed partisan, crowd egging them on, they pushed forward looking for more. In the 36th Ollie Cahill sent in a vicious cross from the left and after a superb flick on from Dessie Baker the troublesome O’Connor snatched at the loose ball - his attempt swerving just wide of Rogers’ right post.
Pats’ came out of the blocks that bit quicker after the break. In the 48th minute Declan O’Brien send in a cross from the right and centre-half Dave Partridge rose with the header, forcing Barry Murphy into a fine save. The stand-in keeper was doing his own cause no harm on the night and he made another fine stop from Enda Stevens after 70 minutes.
With Dessie Baker working like a trooper, dropping deep and digging in, and Stephen Rice showing more and more authority in midfield, Rovers began to dictate the running of the game. Rice found Graham Barrett with a brilliant through ball with eight minutes on the clock. After Barrett turned inside on the left he returned the favour finding Rice in space. The captain blazed over but the lost chance ate away at the 90 minutes. That’s all they wanted and the solitary score proved enough. Things to get very interesting at the summit now, one imagines.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy, Ian Bermingham, Aidan Price, Craig Sives, Pat Flynn, Stephen Rice (Robinson,68‘), Stephen Bradley, Ollie Cahill, Sean O’Connor, (Chisholm 87’) Gary Twigg (Barrett 72‘), Dessie Baker.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Gary Rogers, Damian Lynch, Jason Gavin, David Partridge, Enda Stevens, Stuart Byrne, Ryan Guy (Dempsey 75‘), Garrett O’Connor, Alan Cawley, Declan O’Brien, Mark Quigley.
Referee: D. Tomney.
Man of the Match: Dessie Baker, the striker worked tirelessly dropping back, always showing for the ball with no small amount of invention. The spirit of the veteran is the stuff Michael O’Neill will be looking for from everyone from now until this journeys’ end on November 6th.