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Late drama sees Greene rescue Shamrock Rovers as Pat's left frustrated in season opener

The reigning champions were moments away from losing to the Saints.

Shamrock Rovers' Aaron Greene heads home the goal that rescued a point.
Shamrock Rovers' Aaron Greene heads home the goal that rescued a point.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 1

St Patrick’s Athletic 1

SHAMROCK ROVERS were almost stunned in their opening game of the new Premier Division season, as St Patrick’s Athletic threatened a major upset, but ultimately had to be content with a 1-1 draw.

A largely uneventful game burst into life in the 88th minute, as Robbie Benson’s cross was unwittingly turned into his net by Roberto Lopes.

Pat’s thought they had won it, only for substitute Aaron Greene to head home a superb Sean Hoare cross moments later.

Pat’s were the only Premier Division side the Hoops failed to beat last season, with both 2020 fixtures ending scoreless, and for a long spell tonight, this also looked set to finish 0-0.

It was a cagey affair, with Graham Burke, Aaron Greene and Danny Mandroiu all failing to convert half-chances, while Matty Smith went close during a rare Pat’s attack.  

The Rovers starting XI included summer recruits Chris McCann, Sean Hoare, Sean Gannon and Mandroiu, while Burke featured for the first time in the league since it was confirmed that his loan signing from Preston would be turned into a permanent move.

Five players made their Premier Division debuts for the Saints — Liverpool loanee Vítězslav Jaroš, as well as Paddy Barrett, John Mountney, Ronan Coughlan, and Matty Smith, with former Dundalk star Robbie Benson captaining the side.

Pat’s began well, with their high-pressing game meaning that while Rovers saw plenty of possession, they struggled to get out of their own half at the times due to their opponents’ relentless pressure off the ball

The creativity that was often provided last season by Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff was conspicuous by its absence in the Rovers midfield, as they failed to offer any real attacking threat early on.

Their first proper opening came in the 20th minute, with Burke finding himself in plenty of space on the right-hand side of the box, though his low cross was cleared via the feet of Jaroš. 

Around the half-hour mark, Rovers had two pot shots in quick succession. The first from Burke was low and straight at Jaroš, while the second by Finn was deflected well off target. 

However, with a well-organised Pat’s effectively sitting back and soaking up the pressure, the game became increasingly stop-start, with a frustrated-looking Rovers struggling to develop any real rhythm in their attacking play.

Stephen Bradley’s men threatened early in the second half, as Hoare slipped through Burke, but his attempt from the edge of the area was well over.

With the hosts continuing to look unthreatening, a change was made 10 minutes after the break, as Greene replaced Rory Gaffney, who had a quiet night mainly due to a lack of service.

It was Pat’s who went closest next, however. On the counter, Chris Forrester picked out Matty Smith with a lovely sweeping pass, and the Pat’s attacker’s powerful shot from the edge of the area had to be parried out for a corner by Mannus.

Five minutes later, Greene made his presence felt, as the substitute’s low cross deflected into the path of Mandroiu, who saw his effort on goal cleared off the line.

The Rovers pressure intensified, as they pinned Pat’s back into their own half, yet still, a breakthrough proved elusive.

Dylan Watts replaced Ronan Finn as Rovers looked to add more energy in midfield, while Sean Kavanagh came on in place of Joey O’Brien, with the former Fulham man slotting into the left wing-back role and Liam Scales reverting to the back three.

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Shortly thereafter, a low Burke free kick tested Jaroš, before McCann fired narrowly over moments later.

With 10 minutes remaining, Burke went close, but the Pat’s stopper was again alert, tipping the striker’s deflected shot just wide. 

The late drama with the two goals in quick sucession followed, and Scales then almost won it in the dying minutes, as he headed Mandroiu’s corner just wide.

Shamrock Rovers: 1. Alan Mannus 3. Sean Hoare 4. Roberto Lopes 28. Joey O’Brien (Kavanagh 71) 2. Sean Gannon 15. Liam Scales 26. Chris McCann 8. Ronan Finn (Watts 70) 14. Danny Mandroiu 20. Rory Gaffney (Greene 55) 10. Graham Burke.

Subs: 25. Leon Pohls 7. Dylan Watts 9. Aaron Greene 16. Gary O’Neill 19. Dean Williams 11. Sean Kavanagh 24. Max Murphy 22. Darragh Nugent 34. Conan Noonan

St Patrick’s Athletic: 1. Vítězslav Jaroš 2. John Mountney 5. Lee Desmond 29. Paddy Barrett (Bone 84) 20. Shane Griffith 6. Jamie Lennon 8. Chris Forrester 7. Robbie Benson 15. Billy King (McClelland 46) 12. Matty Smith 10. Ronan Coughlan.

Subs: 21. Barry Murphy 25. Josh Keely 3. Ian Berminghham 4. Sam Bone 9. Nahum Melvin-Lambert 11. Jason McClelland 17. Darragh Burns 18. Ben McCormack 28. Cian Kelly

Referee: Robert Hennessy (Limerick)

About the author:

Paul Fennessy  / reports from Tallaght Stadium

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