Thursday 21 November 2019

Hoops let Dundalk off hook

Shamrock Rovers 0 Sligo Rovers 0

John Russell of Sligo Rovers in action against Dylan Watts (r) of Shamrock Rovers during their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match at Tallaght Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
John Russell of Sligo Rovers in action against Dylan Watts (r) of Shamrock Rovers during their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match at Tallaght Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

It was a case of some new faces but the same old problem for Shamrock Rovers as their lack of a cutting edge did yet more damage to their hopes of taking the league title away from Dundalk, who drew 2-2 with Derry.

At home to Sligo Rovers last night, the Hoops gave debuts to new signings Graham Cummins, from the start, and Gary O'Neill, off the bench, for a home game with Sligo Rovers which, realistically, was a must-win game.

Cummins, signed from Cork City, was brought in to add some firepower to a side which has become reliant on goals from midfield

But their inability to convert possession and chances into goals left them with a frustrating 0-0 draw, the only comfort for the Tallaght club coming with news that Dundalk had also been forced to settle for a draw, in Derry.

On a night when a couple of Sligo boys were front and centre in a venue on the other side of the city, Westlife playing their hits in Croke Park, it was a Donegal man - keeper Ed McGinty - and a Bermudan import - defender Dante Leverock - who were central to events in Tallaght Stadium.

This was a ridiculously one-sided affair, Rovers utterly dominant as their keeper Alan Mannus barely touched the ball, while his opposite number Ed McGinty was the busiest man in the stadium, 2,612 fans in Tallaght to see this draw.

The Hoops hit the woodwork twice while McGinty pulled off a dozen saves to frustrate Stephen Bradley's side who now have just one win from the last five games.

It was scoreless when the squads went for a well-earned break and the home supporters were scratching their heads to work out how come their long spell of dominance had not led to a goal.

Liam Buckley's outfit had kept a clean sheet just once in their previous nine games and from early on last night it looked like the defence was going to have to work hard.

McGinty did well to save from a Jack Byrne shot on 11 minutes while left winger Sean Kavanagh should really have found the target when he chipped the ball over on 19 minutes.

Twice in the space of two minutes Rovers threatened again, Kyle Callan-McFadden getting in the way of a Clarke effort while Dylan Watts was denied by McGinty just after that.

And there was no let-up for the away side, efforts from Kavanagh and a Cummins header which came off the crossbar shortly before the break, and in first-half injury time a double threat, from Ronan Finn and Watts, was somehow kept out.

The second half was more of the same, the Hoops hoping that the trickery, and hard work, of men like Kavanagh and Byrne could yield something.

On 58 minutes McGinty bravely saved at the feet of Cummins while sub Dan Carr was in a good position on 65 minutes but his effort was off target. On 70 minutes Byrne tried to make something happen but Lewis banks got his his way and cleared the danger.

Later on, a Watts cross hit the post while sub O'Neill curled a shot wide but the constant home pressure was mopped up by the Sligo defence, with Dante Leverock in superb form while Lewis Banks also stood firm, four minutes of added time offering no joy to the Hoops.

Europe is the focus now for Bradley's outfit, with Norwegian side Brann in Dublin on Thursday, Rovers consoled by the fact that Dundalk were unable to go further ahead thanks to their dropped points in Derry.

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