Molde kill Rovers with kindness but danger lurks for Bradley's men

The Eliteserien powerhouses, home of a fledgling Erling Haaland till 2018, are hunting six points from back-to-back meetings with Shams
Molde kill Rovers with kindness but danger lurks for Bradley's men

FJORD FOCUS: The picturesque Aker Stadium in Molde, Norway, could prove a less than welcoming venue for Stephen Bradley's side. Pic: @ShamrockRovers

Another European tie and another European manager distancing Shamrock Rovers from the plague of British and Irish stereotypes.

Following hot on the heels of Gent chief Hein Vanhaezebrouck, Molde boss Erling Moe was similarly effusive of the style the Hoops the swear by.

A determination within that philosophy to play their way out from the back cost the Irish champions dearly in Belgium three weeks ago when Dan Cleary’s slip inside his penalty area gifted Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe a present to volley in the second goal of a 3-0 stroll.

Both Cleary and his manager Stephen Bradley have vowed to remain true to their principles despite the mishap but the sense is they’ll have to be careful against the runaway Norwegian leaders on their artificial pitch at the picturesque Aker Stadium.

A second defeat of the group phase, after holding Djurgardens scoreless at Tallaght, will likely vanquish Bradley’s ambition to continue their Conference League odyssey into the knockout stage.

The Eliteserien powerhouses, home of a fledgling Erling Haaland till 2018, are eyeing six points from the back-to-back games against the Hoops over the next seven days. That didn’t stop them killing Rovers with kindness first.

Moe was at the helm two years ago when Dundalk led Molde in their Europa League group stage clash. They recovered to win 2-1, enduring no repeat problems on their home patch with a 3-1 triumph.

“You can often have a wrong impression about the football in Ireland - kick and run and stuff like that,” the host manager pointed out. “Shamrock Rovers are not that at all.” 

Pleasantries aside, Rovers will have to be better at both ends of the pitch to muster an upset. Chances were more plentiful against the Swedes than Belgians but they’ve got to find the net for their first participation in a group stage since 2011 to be deemed a success.

“We didn’t take the good opportunities we got against Gent,” noted Bradley, his side still in the driving seat of their league crown, leading Derry City by five points with five games to play.

“It’s a case of tightening up at the back and taking the chances that come our way.” 

Meanwhile, the FAI have pushed back the final series of Premier Division fixtures by 48 hours due to Rovers’ European commitments. Inexplicably, however, the move from Friday to Sunday places the round on the same day as the women’s FAI Cup final at Tallaght Stadium.

Rovers complete their Conference League series away to Djurgarden on Thursday, November 3, just 24 hours before their final league game away to UCD.

That fixture at the Belfield Bowl, along with the other four top-flight games, has been refixed for Sunday at 7pm.

The women’s decider, between Shelbourne and Athlone Town, kicks off at 3pm, with extra-time and penalties required if they can’t be separated.

Legendary commentator George Hamilton led the legion of complainants online, posting sarcastically on Twitter, “Well, isn’t that just great. #nowords”.

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