The Bench has a Massive Impact as Rovers Push for Promotion.
Despite the weather forecast Carrick Rovers encounter on Sunday morning with Navan Town went ahead with an almost Spring feel on the Ballybay Road. Rovers knew that they could not afford to have any slip-ups as the NEFL season reaches its midway break for Christmas.
The visitors are currently sitting near the bottom of the league table but they were fighting to accumulate the points that would be necessary to stay at this level. Rovers got off to a rapid start and almost took the lead in the 4th minute when Eamon Lynch threaded a perfect pass in behind the Navan defence for Paddy Larney to race into the area but his thunderous shot was palmed away by the visiting Keeper. It was the home side who were setting the early pace and had Navan Town on the back foot early on. These led to a series of corner kicks to Rovers and with Larney’s usually reliable delivery these were always going to cause trouble for the Meath side’s defence. Larney’s teasing delivery in the 15th minute was met firmly by Lynch’s head but was hacked of the line by a defender. Again in the 21st minute Larney’s cross found a Carrick head but again Benny McSkeane’s goal-bound effort was cleared from under the crossbar. After these scares Navan Town began to settle into the match and started to ask a few questions of the Rovers defence. Mickey McDermott’s handling had to be good in the 28th minute when a Navan Town attack ended with a stinging low drive towards his goal. Again 4 minutes later Navan created a shooting opportunity after their forwards got in behind Rovers defence of Liam Og Murray, Barry McNally, David Wilson and Craig Fanning but again McDermott was equal to the strike. This was a wake-up call to Rovers as they struggled to breakdown the Navan defence which was growing in confidence as the match progressed. Rover’s next attempt came from another tremendous pass from Larney which found Kevin Lambe to the right of the Navan area but again his shot was too near the Keeper who pushed the ball around his upright. Again Navan kept responding in kind and came even closer to breaking the deadlock in the 38th minute as they broke clear on the Rovers right flank but the striker pulled his shot across McDermott’s goal when well placed. The link-up play between Murray and Dylan Ward on the Rovers right wing had been causing a major threat for Navan Town as Ward turned their full back inside out at times with Murray constantly trying to get forward in support. Rovers thought they had gained the crucial opener in the dying moments of the half as they were awarded a free-kick some 35 yards from the Navan Town goal. Larney’s viscious delivery seemed to evade everybody but rattled the base of the upright as well before being cleared.
Half-Time: Carrick Rovers 0 Navan Town 0.
The opening period of the second half followed a familiar pattern to the first with Rovers failing to turn possession into clear goal-scoring opportunities and Navan Town continuing to frustrate them by tackling for every ball and blocking any efforts on goal by the Rovers attackers. Rover’s management tried to change the pattern of the match by firstly pushing Wilson into a more advanced role with Niall Babbington moving to centre-half alongside McNally. They then made a couple of changes in an effort to break Navan Town’s resilience with Ciaran Flanagan replacing Ward in the 54th minute and Wayne Kerley coming in for Lambe after 61 minutes. These changes almost produced the opening score as Kerley linked up well with the advanced Murray before giving McSkeane a clear shot at goal but his wayward effort was off target. It was Flanagan’s turn to get involved in the 69th minute after another Rovers substitute Cian Matthews put him clear on the left of the Navan Town area and his whipped cross found Lynch at the back post but his effort again was off target. Rovers rolled the dice again in the 71st minute introducing Shane McDaniel for Lynch. The visitors were still throwing themselves in front of any Rovers efforts and were still causing Rovers problems on the counter-attack and only for a tremendous last ditch tackle from McNally in the 76th minute they would have taken the lead. It was starting to look like it wasn’t going to be Carrick day when a piece of magic between Larney and Kerley presented Rovers with an opportunity to go ahead. Wilson and Matthews combined in midfield before Matthews found Larney on the edge of the area. He found Kerley whose goal attempt seemed to strike an outstretched arm and the Referee immediately pointed to the spot. Kerley made no mistake drilling the ball into the bottom corner beyond the keeper’s reach. Rovers used their last substitute as they sorted to hold onto their precious advantage with Stephen Carroll replacing Murray in the 80th minute. The game took a bizarre and unsavoury turn of events in the 83rd minute which could have cost Rovers 2 valuable points in their quest for promotion. As a Navan Town player lay injured on the ground Rovers sportingly put the ball out for a throw-in just inside the Navan Town half. When play recommenced Rovers thought that the gesture would be replicated by Navan by giving possession back to them through McDermott but as the ball was throw towards the Carrick Keeper’s direction the Navan Town striker took advantage of the situation and raced clear to stroke the ball beyond the Rovers stopper and into the net to the amazement and annoyance of everybody including his own players and especially the manager. The Referee had no alternative but to award the goal. To their credit Rovers shook off the disappointment and set about restoring justice to the scoresheet with time running out. Again Wilson and Matthews were at the heart of the move which got Rovers ahead again as they again linked up before Matthews through ball put Flanagan away on the end-line where he drilled a cross towards the near post where Kerley’s killer instinct had got him in ahead of his marker to prod home. Rovers almost added a cushion of another goal with time up as McSkeane’s terrific footwork gave him a sight of goal but his well struck low drive thundered back off the inside of the post with the Keeper well beaten.
Full Time: Carrick Rovers 2 Navan Town 1.
A vital 3 points that puts Rovers into the promotion places with the NEFL taking a break for Christmas.