Report by Denis Hurley for EchoLive.ie | Photo: Doug Minihane
Cork City could have no complaints as they fell to defeat against SSE Airtricity League Premier Division leaders Shamrock Rovers at Turner’s Cross on Saturday afternoon.
The Hoops extended their unbeaten run to 11 league games this season – and 15 in all, a run going back nearly a year – to move eight points clear of Bohemians and set themselves up nicely for next week’s Europa League clash with Milan. Unfortunately for Neale Fenn’s City, they struggled to get in behind the visitors’ defence and remain three points off eighth place in the table.
City had three changes from last week’s 1-1 draw at Shelbourne. Jake O’Brien came in for Alan Bennett, replicating an injury-enforced switch at Tolka, while Alec Byrne was in for his start since the resumption of football, replacing Dale Holland, and Conor Simpson took over from Scott Fenwick up front.
Stephen Bradley’s Rovers were unchanged from their top-of-the-table victory against Bohemians and they settled well, with Ronan Finn finding Graham Burke in the penalty area early on and the Ireland international just unable to control.
On seven minutes, the same two players nearly combined again, with Finn’s low cross just ahead of Burke, and they had the better of the play, with City unable to create much. The opening goal arrived in the 17th minute, with Jack Byrne’s cross from the left finding Aaron Greene unmarked, allowing him an easy task to head in.
With that cushion, Rovers were able to stroke the ball around, holding possession for long periods, before trying to cut City open. A lovely Byrne ball found Burke marginally offside in the area and then Aaron McEneff fired over after linking well with Danny Lafferty, who had scored both goals in the 2-1 FAI Cup defeat at Tallaght Stadium at the end of last month.
Just after the half-hour, a mazy Byrne run set up another chance for Greene, whose low shot was deflected into the side-netting for a corner, while a Greene lay-off for Lafferty’s driven effort forced a save from Mark McNulty.
Eight minutes before half-time, the roles were reversed as Lafferty crossed for Greene, who should have done better, and a couple of minutes later a threaded McEneff pass intended for Byrne was just beyond its target.
The second goal did arrive before half-time, albeit just after City had their first shot on target. When Cian Coleman was fouled by Liam Scales just outside the penalty area, Dylan McGlade took the free kick and though his initial effort came back off the wall, he had a second go but Alan Mannus in the Rovers goal wasn’t troubled. From that, Rovers went down the field and, with City unable to clear, Byrne sent the ball wide to Lafferty, whose cross allowed Greene to double his personal tally and the lead.
Neale Fenn sought to refresh things by bringing on Ronan Hurley and Scott Fenwick for Byrne and McGlade at half-time, with City shifting from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2. The switch did little to affect the overall flow of the game, however, with a Rovers third goal looking likelier than City getting back into the game.
Hurley had to be alert to clear when Burke and Gary O’Neill combined well in the City area in the 63rd minute while captain Gearóid Morrissey was perhaps lucky to only be shown a yellow card when he was involved in an off-the-ball clash with O’Neill.
Midway through the second half, Rovers really should have made it 3-0 when they had men in the area but none able to get a touch on Lafferty’s low cross, while Burke twice had shots which hit the post.
At the death, Rovers did add a third as sub Neil Farrugia got in on the scoring act, cutting in from the left on to his right foot and despatching a shot past McNulty.
Referee: Raymond Matthews.