Dennehy helps to ease Rovers' concerns

 

Shamrock Rovers 1 Bohemians 0:HAVING TAKEN just one point from nine at home prior to last night, there was concern within the Shamrock Rovers camp this week about the damage a loss to Bohemians might do to their challenge for the title.

After an opening half hour, though, that might have been taken as evidence of both teams being preoccupied with avoiding defeat, the hosts rose to the occasion in front of a close to capacity crowd in Tallaght. Rovers took take the lead through Billy Dennehy and then defended their lead with terrific spirit and determination to ensure that last year’s champions left Dublin 24 empty handed for the third time in three visits.

Given the extent to which results in the last five Premier Division games tightened things up at the top of the table, indeed, Michael O’Neill might be forgiven for asking what all the talk of an early-season crisis was about. This win moves his side to within three points of the pace being set by early leaders Dundalk and St Patrick’s Athletic.

The game may have been pretty grim early on but it, or rather Rovers, sprang into life with the goal. It came almost out of nothing seven minutes before the break with Aidan Price beating Ken Oman in the air to flick on Stephen Rice’s throw-in and Dennehy doing well close in to head home.

The hosts’ first goal at home this season had an immediate impact on the atmosphere in the ground which, in turn, seemed to have a positive effect on Rovers.

Having previously relied far too heavily to playing it high and long out of defence and working hard to ensure Bohemians were put under pressure inside their half, they started to pass the ball a lot more effectively with James Chambers causing the visitors problems with his runs from midfield.

Chambers carved out a decent chance for lone-striker Thomas Stewart a couple of minutes before the break after Rovers had won possession well in midfield and then moved swiftly to exploit the open space in front of them down the right flank. But they came even closer to doubling their lead on the stroke of half-time when Chris O’Connor fumbled an Ollie Cahill corner under pressure and Price had his shot deflected just over.

Bohemians manager Pat Fenlon replaced Killian Brennan with Mark Quigley at the break and while it had little effect, the champions had forced Danny Murphy into a headed goal-line clearance within a couple of minutes of the restart as Paul Keegan rose high above his marker to turn Gareth McGlynn’s corner goalwards.

Steadily, Bohemians set about playing their way back into things and though the tide did not turn completely against them, Rovers were on the back foot for the bulk of the next half hour. They weren’t helped much by the fact they lost three players to injury and while Gary Twigg’s introduction for Ollie Cahill after 72 minutes prompted a cheer to rival the one for the goal, the loss of Pat Flynn brought groans as Chambers was obliged move to right back.

Last year’s top scorer didn’t see too much of the ball during his brief run out as behind him nine outfield players dug in to defend their lead. But the home side’s industry paid off.

The home support’s anxious wait for the final whistle was extended by five minutes of added time but Bohemians created just one chance when Raffaele Cretaro slipped a low ball through for Jason Byrne to run on to but the striker, under pressure from Price, fired high and wide, prompting the first signs of a celebration that was to really take off moments later when the referee finally brought the game to an end.

SHAMROCK ROVERS:Mannus; Flynn (O’Connor, 75 mins), Murray, Price, Murphy; Dennehy, Chambers, Rice (Bayly, 60 mins), Turner, Cahill (Twigg, 72 mins); Stewart.

BOHEMIANS:O’Connor; Shelley, Heary (Madden, 81 mins), Oman, Powell; Brennan (Quigley, half-time), Cronin (Higgins, 85 mins), Keegan, McGlynn; Cretaro, Byrne.

Referee:A Kelly (Cork).