Rovers sweep Saints aside to stay in title chase
ST PAT’S ATH 0
SHAMROCK R 2
DAIRE WALSH reports from Richmond Park
SHAMROCK Rovers re-energised their Premier Division title challenge with a convincing victory over St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park last night.
While champions Dundalk remain eight points clear as a result of their emphatic win against Waterford, Greg Bolger and Sean Kavanagh found the net in either half to keep Rovers’ hopes alive.
Despite losing further ground to Dundalk last Friday, Rovers boss Stephen Bradley resisted the temptation for changes. Daniel Carr continued to the lead the line up front with Aaron Greene once again held in reserve.
Pat’s, on the other hand, had one enforced alteration to the side that defeated UCD on the same evening. The absence of Ciaran Kelly through injury meant former Chelsea prodigy Conor Clifford was recalled to a re-shuffled line-up.
Former Hoops stars Simon Madden and Mikey Drennan retained their starting berths for the Saints, while Barry Murphy, Gary Shaw, James Doona and Dean Clarke were named on the bench against their old club. When the teams last clashed at Inchicore in March, an early Aaron McEneff finish proved the undoing of Pat’s.
Eager to avoid a similar scenario, the hosts attempted to crowd around Ronan Finn and Jack Byrne – the principle creative influences in this Rovers outfit. As a consequence, the visitors often struggled to break through a rigid Pat’s defence.
Brendan Clarke comfortably gathered a deflected Sean Kavanagh shot, before he was forced to turn away a firm strike from his namesake Trevor Clarke on the stroke of 20 minutes. Though this was a minor let-off for the Saints, they immediately forced Alan Mannus into action at the opposite end.
An error in the Rovers defence saw Drennan picking up possession in an advanced position and following intelligent link-up play with Christopher Forrester, he produced a fine stop out of the Northern Ireland international.
They subsequently suffered a set-back when Clifford was withdrawn just shy of the half-hour mark – albeit Scotland native Rhys McCabe was a more than able deputy in the Saints’ engine room.
The prospect of a scoreless first half was starting to loom large, until the unlikely figure of Bolger stepped forward in the opening minute of stoppage-time. A league winner with Pat’s in 2013, the Wexford man found space in the opposition box and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the bottom left-hand corner.
Having gone through the month of June without a win to their name, Rovers suddenly had maximum points within their sights. New additions Graham Cummins, Garry O’Neill and Neil Farrugia are expected to add considerable depth to their squad, but it was 2018 recruit Kavanagh who doubled their lead four minutes after the restart.
The ex-Fulham man superbly negotiated a free-kick on the right-hand side, firing low past the helpless Brendan Clarke for his third goal of the campaign. This left Pat’s with a mountain to climb for the remainder of the contest and despite the admirable endeavours of Harry Kenny’s men, a dramatic fightback never materialised.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: B Clarke; Madden, Desmond, Toner, Bermingham; Coleman, Lennon, Clifford (McCabe 28); Forrester (Doona 67); Walker (D Clarke 46), Drennan.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; O’Brien, Lopes, Grace, Clarke; Bolger, Finn (B Kavanagh 76); Watts (Oluwa 84), Byrne, Kavanagh; Carr (Greene 46).
Scorers: Bolger 45+1, Kavanagh 49
Referee: G Kelly (Cork).