Shamrock Rovers 1-1 Shelbourne

Spoils shared in soulless Santry

Not one, of all the other Premier League teams have succeeded in beating the Real Reds in the first full round of matches. Though playing poorly at times this season, Dermot Keely’s side has developed a steely mettle which was in evidence again at Morton Stadium on Saturday when they pulled back a goal in difficult conditions, to maintain their run and to go back joint-top. A strong gale gusting through the wide open spaces, not only mitigated against good football on the pitch, but also added to the discomfort of the 2,000 odd ( Red Bull reckons they don’t come much odder than Rovers fans ) attendance in this bleak and soulless venue.

Shels lined out with same eleven that started against Derry the previous week, with Stephen Geoghegan again a surprise selection given his recent spate of injuries. Once again, the classy and creative Carel van der Velden was left warming the bench. In a ragged and scrappy first half, few real goal-scoring chances were created.. Shels were unlucky, when a Tony McCarthy cross from the left found Richie Baker wide on the right and he knocked the ball in to Nutsy Fenlon in front of goal, but the midfielder couldn’t quite get over the ball and his volley screwed wide. Rovers took the lead six minutes before the break, stemming from a mistake by ‘keeper Williams. The Welshman was caught when he charged out of his goal to challenge Woods on the right. The Rover’s winger got his cross in but the danger seemed to cleared when Paul Doolin was on hand to make a goal-line clearance from Cousin’s header, but the Shels defence froze as the ball fell to Brian Byrne who picked his spot to score.

A good bollickin’ in the dressing room and a miraculous substitution of van der Velden for Doolin, saw a changed Shels side in the second half. The Real Reds dominated for the next 20 minutes or so as they pressed hard for the equaliser. However, successive misses from an out-of-sorts Geogho and Richie Baker and Owen Heary, as well as a couple of abortive long range attempts from van der Velden, seemed to signal that the visitors were out luck as the balance shifted back to the home side. The 'Stocking' who had made his usual worthless contribution prancing about and hitting a few nothing balls, was replaced by a very lively Dessie Baker after 74 minutes. Two minutes later, from a short corner, Fenlon sent a deep cross over to Pat Scully on the left. Incredibly he was unmarked, and just as Derry found last week, the Shels skipper is deadly in those situations and he duly put the Reds back on level terms. Dessie could have wrapped it up in the final minute when he ran at the Rovers defence. Seeming to have run into a dead end, he got the break of a deflection and he went on and unleashed a cracking shot which had Horgan in goal beaten, but just skimmed off the cross-bar.

Team : Williams; Heary, McCarthy, Scully, D Geoghegan; R Baker, Doolin (van der Velden 45 mins), Fenlon , Keddy; S Geoghegan, Haylock (D Baker 74 mins).

Fintino's Comment : It would hurt Shels bad if we were to lose Owen Heary and Richie Baker. I think Tommy Byrne is an able replacement for Heary but there isn't a player in the league that is up to Richie's standard.

I've fought back the temptation to drag the 'Rovers for Tallaght' banner into Paint Shop Pro and do up a Rovers for Leitrim banner. We should support Rovers fans in their attempt to move to Tallaght, it would be good for the League and Tallaght is a good distance from Tolka.

Red Bull '99