Shamrock Rovers returned from their last trip out of Dublin of the season on Saturday with a point from their game against Derry City in the Brandywell. The 0-0 draw means that there is still hope for the Hoops in their quest for fourth spot in the league and potential European travels in 2014. A win would have seen Rovers jump above Derry in the Airtricity League table but despite a strong finish the game, they couldn’t find a winner and had to make do with a draw – their first stalemate in 15 games.
In the first half an hour of the match, it looked like Derry would put a decisive dent in Rovers’ ambitions in overhauling the Candystripes in the table. The home team had the lion’s share of possession in the opening period but couldn’t make it count.
Rovers lined out in the familiar 4-4-1-1 formation that Hoops boss Trevor Croly has favoured recently but, for this early evening kick off, it was Karl Sheppard up top in front of the roving Gary McCabe. Hoops top scorer Ronan Finn played wide on the right with Billy Dennehy on the left and it was the Kerryman who created the first chance of the night. This opportunity though fell to Derry as Dennehy played a weak backpass that lone striker Michael Rafter almost pounced on but Richard Brush was quick to come off his line for Rovers to clear.
It was the Hoops ‘keeper who was the busier netminder in the initial exchanges. He was well positioned to save Rafter’s header from a Simon Madden cross on 10 minutes before Derry had three corners within a minute. These were all wasted by the Candystripes, as was Patrick McEleney’s free kick that Derry won from referee Sean Grant despite the Rovers player’s protestations. Before the opening quarter of an hour was out, Brush was called upon again as Ryan Curran and Barry McNamee linked up.
Rovers finally got forward to create an opening on 26 minutes as McCabe and Finn interchanged passes freeing up full back Pat Sullivan to get forward and put a dangerous ball into the box. The pity was from a Rovers perspective 10 minutes from the break that their best chance of the match didn’t fall to McCabe or Finn, who have 22 goals between them this season, but to Conor Powell who has yet to find the back of the net for the Hoops since joining last year. The left back got on the end of a McCabe return pass and was clean in on goal but a loose touch on the edge of the box allowed Derry ‘keeper Ger Doherty to close down. Powell was forced wide and when he got control of the ball and played it back into the box, Finn was wasteful with the shot.
After the decidedly quiet opening period, Rovers closed the half strongly with Shane McEleney’s well timed tackle required to stop a strong Finn run before the midfielder played Karl Sheppard in on goal. Doherty slid out with his feet and cleared the ball before Sheppard could send it goalwards. A blocked Richie Ryan shot was Rovers’ last chance of the first half.
While the Derry fans were disappointed with Rafter’s shot over the bar on 51 minutes, they were cheering Dennehy’s miss three minutes later as the winger got on the end of a Sullivan cross but blazed it over the Derry bar with Doherty just watching on. Derry substitute Mark Griffin shot wide after more good work from Rafter and when Brush didn’t deal decisively with a back pass, Rafter should have done better with the chance but he put it well over the bar.
The game was really opening up as both sides created chances but none would be converted. McCabe’s cross was met by the diving head of Sheppard with the ball going wide on the hour mark before Madden got a chance at the other end when the assistant’s flag stayed down when Rovers looked for an offside.
The Hoops put concerted pressure on the home side in the final quarter of the game. Derry though looked to break on the counter attack and get the win that would likely have cemented fourth place for them and the Hoops were mindful of the threat. They picked up four yellow cards in the second half to go with the one card in the first 45 minutes.
Dennehy got his free kick around the wall and on target on 71 minutes but Doherty was able to gather cleanly. His opposite number did likewise when Griffin’s header was goalbound. Doherty batted away Finn’s shot after a driving run from the midfielder. Derry almost grabbed all three points deep in stoppage time from Rafter but Brush kept him out, kept his clean sheet and kept Rovers’ chances of fourth place alive going into the final two games of the season.
Report by Macdara Ferris