A late Simon Madden goal earned Shamrock Rovers a slender victory over Northern Ireland Premiership side Cliftonville in Sunday’s friendly at Tallaght Stadium.
The former Derry City full-back was a late inclusion to the squad, his name not even being included on the team sheet, but his 89th minute strike was the difference between the two sides in the end.
The opening chance of the game came at the ten-minute mark as Rovers broke from a Cliftonville corner. Graham Burke received the ball and charged forward before playing through Darren Meenan whose shot was saved by ‘keeper Jason Mooney before being cleared fully.
Former Aston Villa man Burke was very lively in the first half for the Hoops. After a quarter of an hour he tried his luck from 20 yards only to be denied by a good low save by Mooney.
Rovers had plenty of shots from outside the box that were comfortably saved by the former Acrington Stanley keeper. First Shane Hanney tried his luck before captain Ronan Finn collected the ball and turned his man excellently only to see his effort denied.
The home side were always in control of the game, being able to create chances but just being unable to finish them. One of their better efforts come midway through the half when Meenan played the ball across the edge of the box to Brandon Miele who bent his shot just around the post.
Cliftonville never really created much throughout the game, being unable to make a clear-cut opportunity or even string many passes together. Joe Gormley tried to catch Tomar Chencinski out but his speculative effort flew over the bar, a passage of play which really epitomised the first half for The Reds.
Stephen Bradley’s men would get two more good chances just before the break, firstly when good passing play between Aaron Dobbs, Hanney and Meenan resulted in Dobb’s low effort being blocked and then cleared by the Cliftonville defence.
The final chance of the half fell to Burke as he met Ronan Finn’s cross with his head, only to be denied by a diving headed block by former Rovers player Jason McGuinness.
There was a penalty shout for the away side early in the second half as Gormley made his way into the Rovers area before being brought down by substitute Daniel Devine. The former Peterborough United man saw his appeals waved away by referee Robert Harvey however.
Rovers continued to press after the restart. Half time substitutes Michael O’Connor and Ryan Connolly combined before O’Connor curled his effort agonisingly past the far post.
Burke and Mooney’s duel also continued in the second period, the latter once again getting down to save a low shot from outside the area.
Another of Bradley’s half time changes Sean Boyd, spurned a golden chance just before the hour mark as he collected a through ball from O’Conner inside the box before firing into the side netting when he really should have tested the goalkeeper.
Rovers needed to see out the final quarter of an hour with 10 men. Trevor Clarke collided with Cliftonville man Thomas Cosgrove, and was taken off after receiving attention from the Rovers physio. As they had already used up all their outfield subs, they saw out the rest of the game a man down.
Clarke’s absence did little to change the game as the Hoops stayed in control for the remainder of the contest.
The visitors didn’t threaten in the second period, the only brief sight of goal they got in the second period came when Gormley received a pass from Cillian Gilmore and shot. He saw his first effort blocked but the rebound fell kindly to him as he tried his luck again only to fire over the bar.
The deadlock was nearly broken in spectacular fashion with just under five minutes to go as a headed clearance from Jason McGuinness fell kindly to Richie English, who hit a superb volley first time that went just over the crossbar.
It wasn’t much longer afterwards however before the ball finally found the back of the net. Madden, played a one-two on the right-hand side of the box with Boyd before firing into the far corner past substitute ‘keeper Peter Burke. Rovers finally getting the goal they had been pushing for all game long.
Shamrock Rovers: Tomer Chencinski; Shane Hanney (Simon Madden 45); David Webster (Roberto Lopes 45), Sam Bone (Daniel Devine 45), Sean Heaney (Trevor Clarke 45); Darren Meenan (Sean Boyd 45), Ronan Finn (Richie English 70), David McAllister (James Doona 45), Graham Burke (Luke Kiely 70), Brandon Miele (Ryan Connolly 45); Aaron Dobbs (Michael O’Connor 45).
Subs not used: Kevin Horgan (GK).
Cliftonville: Jason Mooney (Peter Burke 75) Jamie McGovern (Cormac Lawlor 56), Chris Ramsey (Aaron Donnelly 63), Jason McGuinness, Eamonn Seydak (Cilin Gilmore 56), Joe Gormley, Ross Cavery (Thomas Cosgrove 66), Tiarnan McNicholl (Gary Donnelly 45), Paul Finnegan (Caoimhin Bonner 66), Kyn Nelson (Daniel Reynolds 56), Aaron Haire (Nathan Waters 56).
Subs not used: None.