Shamrock Rovers end Dundalk’s run of league victories
Dylan Watts’ late penalty wins it for Rovers against 10-man Lilywhites at Oriel Park
Shamrock Rovers’ Roberto Lopes celebrates scoring his team’s first goal at Oriel Park. Photograph: Ciaran Culligan/Inpho
After the home defeat by Bohemians ended their own recent strong run of league form, Shamrock Rovers grabbed a dramatic victory here, and left as the first side to beat Dundalk at Oriel Park this season.
Roberto Lopes had given the visitors a lead to defend less than two minutes in but after Michael Duffy had scored a second half equaliser there only looked likely to be one winner with Dundalk pressing relentlessly for the goal and win that would have taken them to within one of Bohemians’ nearly century old record for consecutive league victories.
In their eagerness to secure the extra two points, though, they allowed the Dubliners a couple of late chances and after Brandon Kavanagh’s low shot in their final minute of added time was blocked a little short of the line, Sean Gannon’s misjudged challenge on Ronan Finn allowed Dylan Watts to score from the spot and take Rovers to within a point of Waterford in third place.
The home side’s players didn’t take it well with Sean Hoare earning himself a straight red after the final whistle for his protestations. His show of disbelief was matched only by that of the Rovers fans who celebrated wildly the unexpectedly joyous end to what had been a nail-biting contest.
Back at the start of June, when these two last met Dan Carr had given the Dubliners a very early lead but on that occasion Dundalk made short enough work of turning things around on the way to a 5-2 win.
Here, Rovers’ other scorer that night, Lopes put his side in front after just 81 seconds when he converted a Watts free from close range, and though they were on the back foot for much of what followed, the visitors generally looked to be made of slightly sterner stuff.
Dundalk certainly took time to find their rhythm. In the spell that immediately followed the goal Chris Shields, Hoare and Gannon were all guilty of wayward passing when the opportunity was there to put their opponents under real pressure and the early chances to even things up mostly came from set pieces with Duffy’s deliveries causing Alan Mannus’s back four some problems even if nobody found the finish required to actually force the goalkeeper himself into a save.
There were occasions towards the end of the opening half when he would have been utterly helpless if someone had but Rovers scrapped their way through a few six yard box scrambles. Pat McEleney seemed to have one shot after another blocked by the body or outstretched leg of a defender.
It was lively stuff though clearly frustrating for the local support whose biggest cheer prior to the equaliser was prompted by the booking handed out to Greg Bolger who was, as might be expected, holding up his end of things in what was a pretty physical encounter at times.
Stephen Kenny’s men played their part in that with Jamie McGrath upending Bolger with an abandon that might have earned him a straight red on another night and Pat Hoban needlessly picking up a yellow for a kick at Ethan Boyle. By and large, though, the hosts still went in frustrated at the way Robert Harvey was refereeing the game with the Dublin side’s determination to hang on to their lead testing the match official’s leniency at times.
They returned looking more determined themselves to maintain their remarkable recent run in the league of scoring and wins and might had more success turning all their possession into something more tangible had McEleney or Robbie Benson been having better nights. The former made little impact and was replaced early in the second half while the latter stuck at it until early in added time but made poor enough calls at key moments in a couple of second half attacks.
Still, Kenny’s side got their equaliser with what looked set to be a low drive by Duffy from the edge of the area sent looping over Mannus by a defender’s attempt to block. At that stage the hosts were doing enough to suggest that they could go on and win it but their opponents hung in in a way they have not always done this season with Kavanagh’s brilliant block as Gannon teed up what seemed set to be a winner as good as a goal to them.
Even after it, Benson should have put his side in front when Duffy floated in the perfect cross with three minutes remaining but the midfielder missed the target and looked as shocked to see the ball fly over as the crowd were disappointed. Things would get worse for all of them within a matter of minutes.
Dundalk: Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Hoare, Massey; Shields, Benson (Mountney, 90+1), ; McGrath (Murray, 77 mins), McEleney (Connolly, 57 mins), Duffy; Hoban.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Boyle, Lopes, Grace, S Kavanagh; Bolger, Watts; Coustrain (B Kavanagh, 80 mins), Finn, Miele (Greene, 71 mins); Carr (Shaw, 80 mins).
Referee: R Harvey (Dublin).