Burdon’s late heroics ensure Shelbourne make their point
Hoops frustrated by another scoreless stalemate
Shamrock Rovers’ Barry Murphy gets a hand to the ball to foil Shelbourne’s Dean Kelly at Tolka Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Date: 20 March, 2013
Venue: Tolka park
Two superb saves late on from Niall Burdon earned Shelbourne their first point of the season as they frustrated Shamrock Rovers in a scoreless, though immensely entertaining, draw at Tolka Park.
Champions Sligo Rovers were perhaps the only winners, though, as they remain five points clear at the top of the table and six ahead of title favourites Rovers, who have now played out three 0-0 draws already this season.
Excellent throughout, former Ireland youth international Burdon won the man-of-the-match award chiefly for his important saves which came in quick succession in the 83rd minute.
First the 20-year-old French-born keeper bravely raced from his line to block Ronan Finn’s point-blank shot.
Seconds later he was there again, diving to his left to touch away one-handed from substitute Mark Quigley’s volley on the turn.
“He’s only a young lad who is learning the game, but he is very, very good,” said Shelbourne manager Alan Mathews of his goalkeeper. “He’s only going to get better and we’re lucky to have him and he will have a big part to play in our season this year.
“I’m delighted that we kept a clean sheet and that we’ve got off the mark. It was a good performance and on another night we might have nicked it.”
Conversely Rovers’ manager Trevor Croly was less ebullient about another draw.
“I think we were unlucky not to win the game, but having said that, we could have lost it, Shels could have scored,” said Croly.
“But on the whole when a keeper gets man-of-the-match, it sums it up. It’s disappointing to draw, a clean sheet is a positive, but we ran out of time.
“It just didn’t happen for us. We just took that extra touch all the time. I don’t want to talk about pitches, but because of it you’re taking that extra touch all the time which gives people the chance to get back at you.”
With suspension and injury forcing most of five changes from the side that disappointed at Dalymount Park last week, it took Rovers a while to settle during which time they almost gifted Shelbourne a calamitous opening goal inside two minutes.
Barry Murphy dallied coming to clear Ken Oman’s back pass and ex-Rovers’ striker Dean Kelly was quickly in to nick the ball off him. The keeper recovered well to paw the ball off Kelly’s toe.
It was a confidence boost Shelbourne gratefully accepted and they were the better side early on.
Kelly got another sight of goal from Stephen Hurley’s deep cross from the right only to head wastefully over while Sean Brennan wasn’t tracked through midfield as Rovers were happy to see his low drive from distance go wide.
It was 20 minutes before Rovers threatened, though Burdon was scarcely worked by shots from Conor Powell and Shane Robinson.
But Burdon was required to show some agility four minutes later in diving full-stretch to clasp Finn’s drive after the ball broke kindly onto the Hoops' midfielder’s favoured right foot.
Rovers were well on top now with Burdon batting Gary McCabe’s shot from an angle round a post as Shelbourne survived until half-time.
The initiative remained with Rovers into the second half, but they were lacking a cutting edge in the final third.
More direct when they got the ball, Shelbourne stretched Rovers at the back, Kelly’s diving header from Robert Cornwall’s fine diagonal ball flashing wide.
Murphy was then again caught out by a back pass, this time by Adam Hanlon. Hughes, following up, volleyed over from the rebound, though it wouldn’t have counted as the whistle had gone for a harsh handball against Hanlon.
It was end to end now with Brian Shortall clearing off the Shelbourne line as Conor McCormack did effectively likewise for Rovers before Burdon’s late heroics provided the match’s main talking point.