Report: Ryan McMullen

A Markus Poom header late on snatched a point for Rovers to ensure an entertaining contest between the two teams in Tallaght finished all square.

Following the postponement of last Friday’s (March 1st) scheduled home clash with Drogheda United due to snowy weather conditions in Dublin, the focus of Stephen Bradley and his side was instantly shifted towards this game against Derry. In his team selection going into it – the Hoops boss made three changes from the eleven that faced Shelbourne just over a week ago – Sean Kavanagh and Sean Hoare were both unavailable due to injury and were replaced by Markus Poom and Aaron Greene whilst Darragh Nugent dropped to the bench and made way for attacker Graham Burke.

With three wing-backs on the treatment table (Neil Farrugia, Sean Kavanagh and Trevor Clarke), Markus Poom slotted in at left wing-back whilst Darragh Burns lined up at right wing-back.

Pico Lopes also returned to the matchday squad for the first team this season, taking his place among the substitutes. The defender had enjoyed a well-earned break after a successful AFCON tournament with Cape Verde where they reached the quarter-finals.

Although the snow had cleared, the weather was still rough in Tallaght with rain and wind circulating around the ground ahead of kick-off. The rain halted before the game got underway but it still had a slight effect on the surface, thickening the pitch and making it difficult for both teams to play across the deck.

An early opportunity for Rovers came just 13 minutes in when Gary O’Neill picked out Aaron Greene and played a lovely ball into the path of the striker who had the option of Rory Gaffney to his right. However, he decided to go it alone but couldn’t find the back of the net as he struck wide – his dangerous attempt flashing across the face of the goal as it made its way across the box before eventually going out past the right-hand post. 

Ronan Boyce had the first chance for the visitors on 16 minutes when he smashed a shot towards goal whilst making his way into the box, he didn’t cause any trouble with it for Leon Pohls in goal for Rovers however – the German shot-stopper initially parried the high shot away before catching it comfortably on his second attempt as it came down.

The Hoops had two further chances in quick succession, the first came from a Darragh Burns cross from the right which was sent towards the back post, just beyond the reach of the incoming Graham Burke. Shortly after, Burns sent in another superb ball, again from the right, this time it reached the head of Gaffney at the far post and he sent it back towards Greene who just couldn’t get enough power on his header to make any impact with Maher saving without difficulty.

Burns continued his impressive performance as the break approached when he skilfully found an opening at the edge of the box and managed to get a shot away although failed to direct his effort on target.

It was still level when half-time came around and neither side had taken complete control of the game, despite favourable chances at both ends.

Shortly after play resumed, Rovers were fortunate not to concede when Leon Pohls rose to claim a cross at the back post from McMullan, the German spilled but was relieved to see Michael Duffy’s follow-up drop over the crossbar.

At the other end, Josh Honohan came close to finding a breakthrough when he rose to meet a Dylan Watts corner at the near post, but his goal-bound effort was blocked by the Candystripes rearguard.

Markus Poom called goalkeeper Brian Maher into action but the 23 year-old got down in time to deny the Estonian who looked to direct a header into the bottom right corner.

On the hour mark, the deadline would be broken. Burke played a perfectly weighted ball beyond the Derry defence into the path of Burns who slotted past Maher to put the Hoops in front and score his first goal in Rovers colours – a reward for his marvellous performance on the night.

Derry would respond and were unfortunate not to be level minutes later. Ben Doherty did exceptionally well to win the foot race with Burns and then the ball near the corner flag, before feeding Michael Duffy in the box who took a shot but this time, the crossbar came to the rescue for Rovers.

The Rovers reprieve would be short-lived as just past the 70th-minute mark, Derry would be awarded a contentious penalty when referee Damien MacGraith adjudged Dylan Watts to have fouled Pat Hoban in the box. Replays would suggest it was on the soft side with the striker using all his experience to get goal side of Watts and give the referee a decision to make. Hoban stepped up to convert, sending Pohls the wrong way to bring the scores level.

With less than 10 minutes of normal time to play, Derry took the lead through Danny Mullen. A corner by Scottish winger Paul McMullan resulted in a scramble at the back post before Mullen bundled the ball over the line to put the visitors 2-1 up.

Rovers kept pushing, searching for a route back into the game and found a deserved equaliser when Markus Poom rose highest to head home a sublime Darragh Burns cross two minutes into injury time.

Burns was the stand-out performer on the night and was awarded the Player of the Match on a night he nabbed both a goal and an assist in a terrific display from the unfamiliar wing-back role.

An attendance of 4,883 was marked at Tallaght Stadium on the night which was an impressive number considering it was a televised Monday night match with really poor weather conditions in D24. Although they were hoping to take all three points – and will be somewhat disappointed not to after taking the lead – the Hoops will regroup and go again on Saturday when they make the trip West to play Sligo. Kick-off is set for 7.45 pm at The Showgrounds.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls, Cleary, Honohan, Grace ©, Burns, O’Neill, Watts, Poom, Greene (Kenny 64’), Burke (Lopes 88’), Gaffney.

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Steacy, Barrett, Nugent, Towell, O’Sullivan, Dillon, Noonan.

Derry City: Maher, McElleney, Connolly, McJannett ©, Boyce (Kelly 65’), O’Reilly, McEneff (Mullen 79’), Doherty, Duffy (Todd 79’), McMullan, Hoban (Coll 89’).

Derry City unused substitutes: Ryan, Patton, O’Donnell.

Referee: Damien MacGraith