Cobh Ramblers 3-1 Shamrock Rovers
When these sides met at Tallaght Stadium in the first series of games the Hoops gave Cobh a lesson in football running out eventual 7-0 winners. No doubt the Cork lads had that game firmly in mind coming up to today’s game and would have been determined to ensure no repeat.
The home side took the game to Rovers right from the start but after an unsettled opening the Hoops appeared to have turned the corner quickly and put their hosts under a lot of pressure. They found it difficult though to break down the Cobh defence and found their opponents not the least bit shy when it came to mounting counter attacks.
Rovers wouldn’t have been unhappy with their start though. They slowly began to create openings for themselves and had a great chance to go ahead in the 11th minute after centre half Andy Spain dropped a wonderful ball in for Thomas Hannon in front of goal but the midfielder just wasn’t able to make the connection.
The Hoops seemed comfortable enough but then came disaster for them after Cobh raided down the left; initially Rovers had possession but lost the ball, winger Cameron Harelson carried the ball down the left touch line before sending it low across the box to where Beineon O’Brien didn’t waste any time in getting onto it and smacking a strong drive to the back of the net. Rovers had allowed themselves to be caught badly for that goal but dusted themselves down and enjoyed a good spell of applying pressure on their opponents.
The Hoops gave a debut to striker Emmanuel Odeniyi and although they were managing to provide the big lad with some really good service the home centre halves were marking him very tight and real opportunities to finish to the net were scarce. A great chance was created in the 23rd minute though when Eric Abulu came down the wing and switched the ball in to Rhys Murphy who in turn quickly released it for Odeniyi but again the home defence were on their toes and the ball went out for a corner. It was a great move and could very well have resulted in an equaliser. Immediately following that Cobh mounted one of their very effective counter attacks which could have proved costly for the Hoops but Luke Quinn couldn’t get the control on it that he wanted and he hit the ball wide. That was a real let off for Rovers.
Cobh Ramblers then had a moment of luck themselves in the 39th minute when the crossbar came to their rescue. Centre half Adam O’Connor had come down the left side and supplied winger Kenny Cunningham who took a quick shot that bounced off the bar. There was a huge sigh of relief from the Cobh faithful around the ground. Cunningham again and then Conor Behan had good chances for Rovers before the break as also did Jaze Kabia for the home side, ‘keeper Gavin Bazunu made a good save here.
Within three minutes of the restart Kabia went close again for Cobh. Rovers earned themselves a free kick in front of the box after Odeniyi was impeded. Hannon took the free but the defence held well to get a block on it. As in the first half Rovers again enjoyed a good spell of pressure and this time they managed to make it count.
The equaliser came in the 65th minute after O’Connor had carried the ball out from the back and picked Behan out close to the Cobh box; the midfielder was in the perfect position to go for goal himself and he drew ‘keeper Arthur Nganou out before delivering a strong strike that had the net bursting. On the balance of play the Hoops certainly deserved this and they had it within them to push on for the winner.
Full credit to Cobh though, they had a game plan, they didn’t panic and they continued to make life difficult for Rovers as they managed to hold and frustrate attack after attack. In fact, the home side responded well to the equaliser with Nathan O’Donnell going close with a header that resulted from a corner kick after they applied some pressure of their own.
Eight minutes after Rovers had got themselves back on level terms Ramblers were back ahead again after O’Brien cut in on the right and beat Bazunu for his second goal. After another Hannon free kick at the other end Cobh again mounted a counter attack almost immediately with O’Brien setting Dylan Walls up with a shot that went over the bar.
Substitute James Clarke made an immediate impact when he came on and brought off a great save from Nganou for a corner. From an Abulu free O’Connor went close for Rovers with a header. As the game progressed the Hoops must have felt the equaliser was only a matter of time away.
Darren Prendergast set Cunningham up with a chance but the winger hit it over the line. Cobh were certainly under a great deal of pressure at this stage as the Hoops committed in numbers. There was a mad scramble in the box that only ended when Jack Priestly went close but his shot went wide. The one thing Rovers needed to prevent from happening unfortunately did happen when minutes later Cobh broke quickly and with only Prendergast and Priestly guarding the rear they found themselves outnumbered and O’Brien finished at the second attempt to make it 3-1. The Hoops were incensed as they felt that Clarke had been fouled at the other end when Cobh broke quickly and no award was given by the referee.
This result, coupled with Waterford’s 4-1 win against Kerry, sees Rovers loose further ground at the top of the Southern Section but there is still a lot of football to be played. A number of new players have come into the side in recent weeks and a number of others are expected back from injury shortly so expect to see the team bounce back from this set-back. There’s nothing surer.
Shamrock Rovers: 25. Gavin Bazunu; 2. Darren Prendergast, 4. Andy Spain, 5. Adam O’Connor, 3. Eric Abulu; 11. Kenny Cunningham, 15. Conor Behan, 16. Thomas Hannon, 6. Jack Priestly, 17. Rhys Murphy; 20. Emmanuel Odeniyi.
Substitutes: 30. Kalvin Geraghty, 10. Jordan Tallon, 18. Adam Murphy (for R. Murphy 61 mins), 19. James Clarke (for Behan 69 mins), 23. Lee McEntee (for O’Connor 88 mins).