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Saturday 19 August 2017

Set pieces enough as Hoops resist Wexford uprising

Airtricity League: Shamrock Rovers 2 Wexford 0

Shamrock Rovers’ Danny North (l) scores his side’s first goal against Wexford Youths at Tallaght Stadium (SPORTSFILE)
Shamrock Rovers’ Danny North (l) scores his side’s first goal against Wexford Youths at Tallaght Stadium (SPORTSFILE)

Back to back wins and clean sheets from Shamrock Rovers in 2016 would seem to give weight to the chant from their supporters that, after four years without a major trophy, the Hoops are indeed "on our way back".

But, just as they didn't have things all their own way despite the comfortable-looking 2-0 scoreline from last night's battle with Wexford Youths, Pat Fenlon's side will need to grind out results like they did last night if they are to mount a proper challenge to Dundalk.

The other lesson from the action at Tallaght Stadium was that if Wexford play with the same vigour, and add a clinical edge to their finishing for the rest of 2016, they will stand a good chance of surviving in the top division.

With the game scoreless at half time, the more pessimistic members of the Rovers support wondered of their habit of drawing too many games, which stymied a title bid last season, was still around this term.

But Rovers finally got their noses in front just after the hour mark, Danny North with the final touch after a Brandon Miele free kick was deflected.

Wexford's failure to level when forward Paul Murphy had only keeper Barry Murphy to beat on 78 minutes summed up their night and two minutes from time, Rovers made sure of the win, Gary McCabe scoring from the penalty spot.

So lots for Pat Fenlon to ponder ahead of Monday's trip to Donegal to face Finn Harps but with the wins, clean sheets and clean disciplinary records to their credit, on a night when title rivals Cork City lost a game and man to a red card, it's been a good start to 2016 for the Hoops.

With almost a fully-fit squad and confidence high from last week's win away to Sligo, home fans would have seen this game against the newly-promoted Wexford lads as a banker for a home win.

But Wexford, maybe over their first-night nerves from that defeat in their first-ever top flight game last weekend, showed from the off that they were not in Dublin for a day trip. They had shape and purpose about them, defenders Lee Grace and Gary Delaney looking comfortable from the start.

Wexford had plenty of possession early on and even had the first chance of this game, Ryan Delaney forcing a save from Barry Murphy on 12 minutes, while 13 minutes later Danny Furlong tried his luck.

Rovers, handing home debuts to Killian Brennan and Dean Clarke, prodded away in midfield, trying to cut open that solid Youths back four. On the half-hour mark Brandon Miele burst into the box and it needed a clean tackle from Grace to keep Miele away. Just after that Miele was put in a good position by a Gavin Brennan ball but Miele's touch let him down. The lead goal finally came on 61 minutes, Miele's free kick pushed onto the crossbar by keeper Doyle but goal-hunter North was unmarked to stab home the rebound, and two minutes from the end McCabe stroked home a penalty, after sub Patrick Cregg was felled in the box by Grace.

A moral victory for an impressive Youths side in their first away game in the top flight and work to do for both clubs.

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