Rovers Back on Track after Hard Fought Victory.
Having been beaten in their previous 2 outings, Carrick Rovers NEFL Div.1 side couldn’t afford to lose any more ground if they had any aspirations of gaining promotion to the top level next season. They entertained local neighbours Square United from Ardee, on Sunday morning at home and knew that they weren’t going to get anything easy from the very first whistle.
Square pressed every Rovers pass and put the home side’s players under pressure in the opening exchanges. This lead to Carrick being entrenched in their own half for long periods and conceding numerous throw-ins and corner kicks. One of these almost lead to the opening score in the 6th minute when the ball was delivered high to the far post where a Square player volley unopposed to the side netting to give Rovers an early scare. Within 2 minutes they had created another opening and only for a magnificent, full length finger-tip save from Mickey McDermott in the Rovers goal, they would have opened the scoring. Rovers looked sluggish and uneasy in possession and this encouraged the visitors to pile forward at every opportunity. Against the run of play it was Rovers who took the lead in the 17th minute when Cian Matthews was allowed time to deliver a probing cross deep into the heart of the United area where Wayne Kerley rose highest to head the ball goal-wards. Although the Square Keeper got hands on the ball, he was unable to prevent it crossing the line with Eamon Lynch following up to make sure anyway.
This should have settled the home team down but it was Square again who were asking all the questions and had several chances to get back on level terms only for some terrific defensive tackling by Stephen Carroll and Niall Babbington in the heart of the Rovers defence and McDermott who again thwarted the Square striker with another fantastic save in the 19th minute. The big Keeper could only watch though 2 minutes later when the ball was crossed into the Rovers area and the Square centre-forward rose to head the ball unopposed. Although his header looped straight up he adjusted his body to superbly bicycle kick the ball high into the roof of the Rovers net. Square were back in the ascendance again now as the strove to turn possession into scores. A lengthy delay due to a nasty injury to a Square player, probably came at the right time for Carrick as they tried regroup and weather the storm of attacks that they were facing. Benny McSkeane and Gerard McGeown were having a hard day at the office in the centre of the field for Rovers as they tried to contain the United players movement. The half somehow came to a close with no further scores, mainly down to McDermott’s heroics.
Half Time: Carrick Rovers AFC 1 Square Utd. 1
Liam Og Murray came into replace Lorcan Kwan shortly after the restart to slot into the centre half position but it was Square whom started the second period in the same fashion as they had finished the first, on the front foot and must have thought they had taken the lead in the 55th minute when they put a flowing move together down Carrick’s right wing which resulted in the ball being whipped low to the back post where a Square player was unmarked with an empty net in front of him. Somehow his first effort lack power and held up short of the line but as he followed up Babbington threw himself in front of the shot and Carroll completed the clearance. Paddy Larney replaced the injured Kerley in the 57th minute and Deco Moran came in for Kevin Lambe 4 minutes later as Rovers day seemed to be getting worse by the minute. But Rovers have competition for places the days and strength in depth within the squad and this showed as they began to get a foothold in the game. Moran delivered a pinpoint pass onto Murray’s head from a dead ball but the young defenders header just drifted passed the upright with the Keeper rooted to the spot.
Rovers rolled the dice again in the 70th minute introducing long time absentee Craig Fanning for Ciaran Flanagan with Matthews pushing further up the field on the left. In the 73rd minute Rovers produced a piece of magic to turn the tie on its head. Babbington started the move by breaking up a Square attack before finding Moran who picked out Larney who’d found himself a piece of space just outside the area, as only he can and there was never a doubt that he could provide a perfect cross into the danger area which McGeown rose majestically to power his header to the back of the net. It was the spark that Carrick needed and they now took control of proceedings with Eamonn Lynch just dragging one effort wide of the upright and blazing another over the crossbar when well placed. Rovers sealed the victory deep into injury time when Matthews picked up a stray Square pass just inside the opposition half before driving towards the area with 2 defenders in chase as he entered the area he let fly with a left footed low shot that the Keeper did well to keep out but could do nothing about Matthews follow-up effort.
Full Time: Carrick Rovers AFC 3 Square Utd 1.
Team: M. McDermott, L. Kwan, N.Babbington, S.Carroll, C.Matthews, B.McSkeane, G.McGeown, K.Lambe, W.kerley, E.Lynch and C.Flanagan.
Subs: Liam Og Murray for Kwan, Paddy Larney for Kerley, Deco Moran for Lambe and Craig Fanning for Flanagan.
Unused Subs: Shane McDaniel and Padraig Marron.
Rovers have played much better this season and come away with no points so this was a welcome 3 points. The strength of depth of the squad was again a major factor as replacements made major contributions when introduced.