Missed Opportunities Prove Costly as Rovers Lose on the Road Again.
Carrick Rovers were on the road again on Friday evening as they travelled to the MDL Grounds in Navan to play local side Johnstown FC, hoping to get back on track in Division 1 of the NEFL after the defeat to Kentstown in their previous outing.
The game was played under lights on the fantastic new all –weather surface and this encouraged a fast and frenetic opening to the match. It was Johnstown who set the early pace aided by the breeze as Carrick Rovers struggled to contain their movement and passing. They forced Rovers to concede a corner in the 6th minute after a series of attacks and when the ball was eventually delivered into the area a Johnstown player rose at the back post totally unmarked but somehow headed wide of Mickey McDermott’s goal. This was to prove to be an early warning for the visitors. Within a minute they had carved out another opportunity when a through ball put their striker in behind the Rovers defence and left him 1-v-1 with McDermott who advanced out of his area to push the attacker wide. His shot was then superbly cleared off the line by a desperate lung by Barry McNally and Niall Babbington completed the clearance. These let-offs seemed to spark Rovers into life and they began put a series of attacks together. In the 10th minute they were awarded a free-kick 40 yards from the Johnstown goal and Cian Matthews threaded a ball into Wayne Kerley’s feet inside the area. The in-form striker twisted and turned before firing just wide with the Johnstown Keeper rooted to the spot. Carrick had their best period after this as they began to get to grips with their opponents. Benny McSkeane and Gerard McGeown began to lay a foundation in midfield for Rovers to build from and young Dylan Ward on the Rovers right flank came to the fore as he tormented the Johnstown defence with his trickery. It was from one of his jinking runs and tremendous delivery in the 18th minute, that “Deco” Moran was given a great chance to put the visitors ahead but failed to test the Keeper. It was the same player again 3 minutes later, who had the next opportunity after McGeown had released him, but although he rounded the advancing stopper, he again failed to convert the chance. McGeown himself created an opening for himself within minutes but again failed to capitalise. These wasted chances proved to be costly as the game’s outcome was probably determined in the 30th minute when McNally pulled up after clearing the ball for a corner kick.
Rovers had to make a forced change after a long delay with Eamon Lynch coming on. From the resulting delivery the Referee saw an infringement inside the area and awarded a penalty kick which was converted by their No. 9. Rovers tried to get back on level terms quickly and Lynch forced the Keeper into a good save in the 34th minute. Before Rovers could regroup they found themselves further behind as the Johnstown No. 11 picked up possession on the right wing and drove towards the Rovers area. Matthews seemed to have dealt with the threat but Johnstown player went down under the challenge and again the official pointed to the spot. This time it was the No. 11 who took the responsibility and made no mistake. Rovers had to weather a series of attacks from the buoyant home side just to keep the score the same until half-time.
Half-Time: Johnstown FC 2 Carrick Rovers AFC 0.
A few truths spoken and a few adjustments made during the break seemed to have the effect as Rovers came out a different side in the second period and set about trying to get back into the contest. In the 50th minute they reduced the deficit after a series of good attacking moves resulted in Johnstown being pinned back into their own half. Kevin Lambe linked up with Matthews on the left wing and when the defender delivered a probing cross into the heart of the Johnstown area McGeown rose highest to head the ball goal-wards but the Keeper saved his first effort before McGeown pounced on the rebound to force the ball home. Four minutes later parity was restore when McSkeane and Moran combined to put Kerley in behind the home defence and his flashed cross was headed home by a Johnstown head. It was Rovers now who looked the more likely to go on and take all 3 points as they began to create some decent chances to add to their score. In the 63rd minute McSkeane saw his header whistle passed the upright from a Kerley corner kick and a minute later Lynch drew a good save from the Johnstown Keeper. Again wasted opportunities proved costly as almost immediately Johnstown broke forward quickly, stringing a couple of passes together before releasing a player away on the Rovers right wing. McSkeane was unable to prevent the ball being wiped into the area where it was dispatched first time beyond McDermott’s desperate dive and into the bottom corner of his net. Again Rovers responded and Stephen Carroll couldn’t believe that he hadn’t levelled the scores again when he met Lambe’s corner perfectly but again his effort was off target. Rovers rang the changes with the game entering its last period. Ciaran Flanagan and Paddy Larney replacing Lambe and Kerley in an attempt to get something out of the fixture. The Managers changes almost paid off as McGeown found Larney with a defence splitting pass but the newly introduced forward hesitated when he had a clear sight of goal and the delay allowed the Johnstown defence to smother his attempt. The home team where reduced to counter-attacks but only for some last ditch defending and some good positioning from McDermott they could have extended their advantage. Shane McDaniel came into replace Ward with time running out. Lynch was presented with an opportunity to salvage something with the last chance of the game, but his header was straight at the Johnstown Keeper.
Full Time: Johnstown FC 3 Carrick Rovers AFC 2.
Team: M. McDermott, S. Carroll, N. Babbington, B. McNally, C. Matthews, B. McSkeane, G. McGeown, D. Moran, D. Ward, W. Kerley and K. Lambe.
Subs Used: Eamon Lynch for McNally, Ciaran Flanagan for Lambe, Paddy Larney for Kerley and Shane McDaniel for Ward.