Shamrock Rovers 0 Dundalk 0: While Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk are still searching for their first win this season, it was the Lilywhites who went back the M1 last night from Tallaght Stadium carrying the regret of Pat Hoban missing a sitter to nick victory on the hour.
In a game full of bite but a paucity of quality and goalmouth action, the striker raced clear on the hour from Robbie Benson’s pass only to drag his shot beyond the far post when teammate Dylan Connolly was better placed to convert the cross.
Given the needle between the sides, which was ramped up by a war of words between the managers during the week, this was never going to be a classic but the lack of fluency must be a concern for both bosses.
After watching his defence getting dissected last week by Bohemians in a second-half blitz, Stephen Bradley didn’t spare any reputation as Roberto Lopes got the bullet by being dropped.
Ally Gilchrist, another defender to look shaky on his debut at Dalymount, was redeployed from the left-back to the central berth vacated by Lopes, with Luke Byrne the beneficiary.
In the other change to the Rovers line-up, David McAllister was drafted in to replace the injured and the craft of their skipper was abundantly lacking in a sluggish first-half display.
Doing his best to supply some creativity in Finn’s absence was Brandon Miele who came closest to finding the first-half breakthrough.
The winger, who bagged nine league goals last season, tried his luck from 25 yards following a lay-off from Graham Burke and despite beating Gary Rogers, his rising effort clipped the inside of the near post and bounced back into play.
For Dundalk, Hoban led the attack for the first time since his return to the club, but it was a defender making his bow, Dan Cleary, who was gifted their best chance.
Kevin Horgan, the 20-year-old Rovers goalkeeper, looked far from convincing on high balls and his ill-judged decision on the half hour to punch, rather than catch, Michael Duffy’s cross provided Cleary with a clear sight on goal but the former Liverpool trainee blazed over from eight yards.
There were plenty more indicators that this Rovers defence still has time before settling. In a bizarre three-minute spell midway through the half, a mix-up between the two centre-backs Gilchrist and Lee Grace allowed Robbie Benson to break and his pass wide to Ronan Murray resulted in a shot which deflected wide.
Worse was to come when Scottish native Gilchrist sent a back-pass beyond Horgan towards goal, forcing the stopper to scamper back and clear from a yard out for a corner.
It was a night when a mistake was likely to prove decisive but Hoban couldn’t capitalise when the home defence were again all at sea on the hour.
In front of their expectant fans, Rovers had offered scant imagination in attack. They were restricted to Miele’s tame effort from the edge of the box for their second half excitement.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: (4-2-3-1): Toner; Boyle, Gilchrist, Grace, Byrne; G Bolger, McAllister; Coustrain (Kavanagh 80), Burke, Miele; Shaw (Carr 70).
Subs not used: Chencinski, Lopes, Boyd, A Bolger, Bone.
DUNDALK: (4-2-3-1): Rogers; Gannon, Cleary, Folan, Massey; Shields, Benson; McGrath (Adorjan 73), Murray (Connolly 55), Duffy; Hoban (Tagbajumi 62).
Subs not used: Sava, Chveoukas, Poynton, Jarvis.
Ref: N Doyle (Dublin)
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