Post-Match reaction here >>>
The Hoops and Bray Wanderers took a point each from a sandy Carlisle Grounds after a tough encounter that wasn't high on entertainment. Rovers started well with Captain Shane Robinsons shot helped on by Twigg into the path of Baker after only five minutes but his shot was blocked. Bray 'keeper O'Connor punched away a fine Madden cross on 13 minutes but a minute later he excelled himself to produce a one-handed save from Cahills spectacular volley from 25 yards.
Rovers continued to dominate the early exchanges and on 17 minutes Rice pushed the ball into space for Cahill but his first touch enabled a defender to get across. On 33 minutes some good play from Robinson saw Baker just fail to set Bradley up with a shot. A minute later Robinson chased a ball down the right and his low cross found Cahill who laid the ball off for Rice but his shot went wide.
The Seagulls gradually came into the game and a dangerous corner in the 37th minute put the Hoops defence on alert. A deflected through ball had O'Connor scrambling to clear and his punch away looked to be outside the area. Bray had their best chance on 44 minutes when a throw-in fell to Byrne and his flick went across goal and hit the post.
A quickly taken free-kick just two minutes after the break set-up Baker in the box but he shot high and over. Byrne missed a header in front of goal for Bray on 52 minutes and four minutes later a Foran header from a corner had Bradley clearing from close to his own line. Simon Webb almost connected with a corner in the 59th minute and three minutes later a Bradley cross seemed to strike a defenders hand but the Ref. waved play on. On 64 minutes Robinson tried to lob the 'keeper from 20 yards but O'Connor got back to save.
A deep cross from Madden after 67 minutes was headed wide under pressure by Cahill and Barry Murphy easily saved a Kavanagh shot a minute later. The hard working Rice picked up Rovers first yellow card of the campaign as both team seemed to tire as the game entered the final 15 minutes. Aiden Price won a vital header on 77 minutes from a corner and two minutes later Simon Webb met a free-kick but directed his header straight at the 'keeper from a tight angle.
The home side threatened again on 80 minutes but a combination of Price and Bermingham denied a scoring chance. The Hoops last chance came when Robinson tried his luck from 25 yards but O'Connor got down well to save. Bray forced a late corner but the hard working Hoops defence held out.
Following Friday’s 0-0 draw against Bray Wanderers, Michael O’Neill spoke to www.shamrockrovers.ie about the Hoops’ season opener at the Carlisle Grounds.
“The game was a bit frantic at times,” he said. “It never let up in tempo, and I would’ve liked to have seen us get the ball down and pass it a little bit better.
“But given how Bray played, we had to make sure we matched the tempo of the game. They were physical – but we stood up to that, and that was a pleasing aspect.
"They were very organised and we knew that. They were hungry and had a great desire to play. It was pleasing that we weren't found wanting in that area. I thought Stephen Rice was magnificent for us in the middle of the field. And Shane Robinson as well.
Sean Webb coming in at centre-half was very good as well - so there was a lot of plusses. We were disappointed that we didn't start the season with a win. With a bit more quality in the final third we would've got the three points. But it wasn't to be.
“We probably should’ve got ourselves in front in the first-half, but we never managed to do that. And then we’d a couple of close shaves in the second-half, but all-in-all we didn’t manage to create that sort of clear-cut opening that could’ve won us the game.”
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A point gained or two lost? The post-match mood after Friday’s scoreless game in Bray left many fans with mixed emotions. For Michael O’Neill it was a case of taking both the positives and negatives from the Hoops’ performance and working on things ahead of next Friday’s opening night in Tallaght Stadium.
“We started the game quite well,” he felt, reflecting on a key moment of Friday’s match. “Their goalkeeper made a fantastic save from Ollie Cahill. At that point of the game it looked as though we were going to score. But to be fair to Bray, they came back into it then, leading up to half-time. We had to deal with that, and we had to lift the tempo again.”
During the break, O’Neill and his assistant Trevor Croly rallied their troops in order to face up to the challenges posed by a young, buoyant Bray side that had worked their way back into the game.
“We said at half-time that it was a game that I felt was going to be decided by just that one goal, and to make sure that we didn’t cause ourselves any problems, didn’t make any mistakes at the back, and that we could find that extra edge. But unfortunately we just didn’t manage to find it in the final third.”
Particularly in the first-half, the Hoops almost owned the ball, but were unable to play that final pass to cut the Bray defence open. O’Neill feels that the cutting edge will come with familiarity, and that “there are a lot of positives” to come out of Friday’s game, “but we are slightly disappointed that we didn’t get off with a win.
“The focus is to try and get a bit more fluidity in the middle to front,” he says. “We’ve brought new players into the club – Gary Twigg’s just arrived, as has Stephen Bradley – so that’s not going to happen overnight, but I was delighted with Ollie Cahill on the left as well, I thought Ollie gave us great balance.”
Another thing that impressed Michael O’Neill was the away support the Hoops enjoyed at the Carlisle Grounds. Once again, Shamrock Rovers’ fans traveled in big numbers to the seaside venue, and were in the majority of the 3,500 present.
“The turnout was fantastic for an away game,” O’Neill acknowledges. ”But that comes with the territory at Shamrock Rovers: a huge following, with a huge passion for the club, and our players have to get used to dealing with that.
“I don’t think that we had a problem with that, I don’t think it effected any of the players, but the expectation level’s high and for some of them this is a new experience, but at this club they’re going to have to learn to deal with that.”