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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 27 January, 2020

Shamrock Rovers return to winning ways with hard-fought victory against Pat's

Captain Ronan Finn got the only goal of the game for the Hoops.

Ronan Finn celebrates his goal.
Ronan Finn celebrates his goal.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 1

St Patrick’s Athletic 0

Paul Fennessy reports from Tallaght Stadium

SHAMROCK ROVERS MAINTAINED their lead at the top of the Premier Division table tonight, as they dug out a win against a stubborn St Pat’s side.

A well-worked first-half Ronan Finn goal proved the difference between the teams, with both sides missing decent chances after the break.

Having stormed to the top of the league amid an impressive start to the season, Rovers have been brought back to earth somewhat of late, with back-to-back defeats against Bohs and Dundalk.

St Pat’s too have caught the eye at times, but have lacked consistency — six wins, three draws and four losses saw them come in to tonight’s fixture in fifth position.

Having been as many as 10 points ahead already this season at one stage, Rovers’ recent slump had left them just three ahead of second-place Dundalk going into the Pat’s encounter, and so a win was badly needed to arrest this downward spiral.

Trevor Clarke and Lee Grace returned from suspension as they went straight back into the starting XI, meaning 16-year-old James Furlong, who made his first-team debut on Friday, reverted to the bench.

Pat’s began brightly. Two crosses in quick succession by Simon Madden could not be steered on target by Mikey Drennan and Rhys McCabe respectively.

Rovers responded in the 11th minute. Jack Byrne’s quick free kick caught the visitors unprepared and Ronan Finn’s inch-perfect cross was headed just wide by Lee Grace.

Increasingly, the hosts got on top with Byrne seeing plenty of the ball and dictating play. On 20 minutes, a last-ditch Ciaran Kelly challenge was required to prevent Aaron Greene sprinting through on goal after good work in the build-up from Byrne and Aaron McEneff.

A frustrating few minutes followed, with chances at a premium, before Rovers’ dominance finally told on 34 minutes.

Ronan Finn played a clever one-two with Brandon Kavanagh on the edge of the area, before slotting the ball coolly past Brendan Clarke to give his side a deserved lead.

The Saints tried to offer more in attack in response, but they simply couldn’t get going. Rovers’ holding midfielder Greg Bolger was consistently alert to snuff out any potentially attacking threat, ensuring the home side led at the break.

St. Patrick's Athletic fans set off flares St. Patrick's Athletic fans set off flares. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

There were worrying scenes just after the break as Scottish midfielder McCabe fell to the ground following a nasty-looking collision with Clarke.

It was the end of the former Rangers player’s evening, as he walked off, looking groggy following treatment, as he was replaced by Chris Forrester.

Moments later, Rovers almost had a second. Byrne’s beautifully flighted free kick was glanced just wide by Roberto Lopes.

The game threatened to boil over just before the hour mark, as Darragh Markey committed a high, late challenge on Clarke, prompting anger in the Rovers ranks and a yellow card for the youngster.

The Hoops could not quite maintain their first-half superiority or attacking momentum, and manager Stephen Bradley attempted to rectify this issue with a change, as Kavanagh was withdrawn for Dan Carr.

However, Pat’s continued to push. Jamie Lennon’s ball in was directed across the box by Dave Webster, but Forrester’s close-range header was too close to Alan Mannus.

Down the other end, Carr was making his presence felt, as he found himself in a promising position only to see his shot deflected just over.

Carr had another chance with 17 minutes remaining. Byrne’s chipped cross was helped on by Greene, but the English striker’s sliced attempt from the edge of the area failed to trouble the goalkeeper.

Pat’s then missed a brilliant chance to equalise with eight minutes remaining. A quick free kick caught Rovers napping, with substitute Dean Clarke finding himself through on goal, but Mannus got down  well to make the save and keep his clean sheet intact.

Aside from that one nervy moment, the outcome rarely looked in doubt in the dying minutes, with Carr failing to add to Rovers’ advantage as he could not get a proper connection on substitute Dylan Watts’ lofted through ball.

A subsequent last-gasp James Doona free kick could only find the side-netting, prompting cheers of relief and delight from the home support, as Rovers retained their three-point lead over rivals Dundalk.

Shamrock Rovers: 1. Alan Mannus 4. Roberto Lopes 5. Lee Grace 6. Greg Bolger 8. Ronan Finn 10. Aaron McEneff 20. Trevor Clarke 22. Aaron Greene (Vojic ’80) 27. Brandon Kavanagh (Carr ’62) 28. Joey O’Brien 29. Jack Byrne (Watts ’87).

Subs: 25. Leon Pohls 2. Ethan Boyle 7. Dylan Watts 15. James Furlong 17. Joel Coustrain 9. Dan Carr  34. Orhan Vojic.

St Patrick’s Athletic: 26. Brendan Clarke 2. Dave Webster 3. Ian Bermingham (Donna ’85) 5. Lee Desmond 7. Gary Shaw (Clarke ’77) 8. Darragh Markey 9. Mikey Drennan 12. Ciaran Kelly 17. Simon Madden 20. Jamie Lennon 24. Rhys McCabe (Forrester ’52).

Subs: 1. Barry Murphy 10. Brandon Miele 11. James Doona 18. Dean Clarke 19. Chris Forrester 23. Cian Coleman 31. Jake Walker.

Referee: Paul McLoughlin.

Attendance: 3,920

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Paul Fennessy

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