Brilliant Ward Goal Earns Rovers the Points in a Tight Affair.
After last weekend’s match being postponed, Carrick Rovers NEFL Division 1 side returned to action on Sunday morning with a home encounter against Meath outfit Enfield FC.
The last time these two clubs met was 3 seasons ago in Division 2 when a free-flowing Enfield team taught a very young and inexperienced Rovers side a lesson. A lot has happened since that encounter, with this current Rovers crop chasing promotion and the Meath club’s results being somewhat erratic to say the least. The home side weren’t sure which Enfield would turn up but within the first few tussles for possession they knew that they would have to earn any points that they could secure on the day. Enfield’s results had shown that they could put it up to any team in this division, on their day and from early on it was evident that they fancied their chances of coming away from South Monaghan with all 3 points. Rovers started sluggishly which allow Enfield to press them back into their own half in the opening exchanges. The makeshift Rovers defence of Stephen Carroll, filling in for the suspended Craig Fanning, Barry McNally, Cian Matthews and the young Liam Og Murray, slotting into centre-half for the injured David Wilson, were being asked some serious questions early on and with Thomas Marron in goals for the absent McDermott,
Rovers were taking time to adjust to the new line-up. It wasn’t until the 10th minute that Carrick managed to put some passes together to create a sight of goal for Benny McSkeane to drag his long-range effort wide of the Enfield Keeper’s upright. Again the tough tackling from the visiting midfielders was setting the tone for the rest of the Enfield players to have a go at their opponents. With no time being allowed on the ball Rovers were finding it hard early on to settle into their usually potent attacking style. Eamon Lynch eventually began to get some decent service into his feet and this allowed Rovers to build a good platform for their forwards to start to cause a threat to the Enfield backline. In the 23rd minute Lynch combined with Paddy Larney before the skilful forward picked out Dylan Ward in an advanced position, but his shot drifted harmlessly wide. Within a minute Rovers created another good chance when Larney’s cross has meet by McSkeane’s head but his effort was hacked off the line by an Enfield defender. Rovers began to dominate the match at this point and Wayne Kerley began to course the Enfield right back all sorts of problems. It was his tricky dribbling skills that allowed him time to deliver a pinpoint cross onto Lynch’s head in the 27th minute, but the strikers header dropped the wrong side of the post with the Keeper beaten. Larney was immense in both his work-rate and distribution and it was from his delivery from a dead-ball in the 32nd minute that Lynch’s flick fell to Murray but the young centre-half was quickly closed down as he controlled the ball and danger was cleared. Murray was again involved in the 36th minute as he raced forward after dispossessing the Enfield striker. He threaded a clear ball into Larney’s feet 10 yards outside the visitor’s area but Larney’s shot was always rising from the minute it left his boot. For all of Rovers possession, Enfield were always a threat when they came forward and Marron had to be quickly off his line to smother the danger on several occasions as it looked like the pacey Enfield forwards threatened to get in behind the Rovers rear-guard. Rovers were looking to get a goal to reward their possession and where given an opportunity from a central free-kick in the 41st minute but Kerley’s shot sailed over the crossbar. With the half deep into added on time, Rovers eventually broke the deadlock with a flowing piece of attacking football. Matthews started the move in his own half before setting Kerley away on the left wing. His accurate cross fell to Lynch who flicked it on to Larney who cleverly picked out Ward just inside the Enfield area. The diminutive Ward was quickly surrounded by 3 defenders and it looked like the chance was gone, but not for the first time this season, the tricky winger managed to wriggle himself free to smash a left footed strike beyond the Keeper’s reach and into the roof of the net.
Half-time: Carrick Rovers AFC 1 Enfield FC 0.
Rovers knew that the visitors would respond in the second period and they weren’t disappointed as the Meath side rolled up their sleeves and set about levelling the score. They almost scored from the restart as the Rovers defence were caught cold with a terrific defence splitting through ball, but Marron raced off his line to push the ball around his post for a corner kick. It is at times like these that the value of an experienced player is really important and Niall Babbington really set the tone of what was to be a back to the walls effort from this young Rovers side. The industrious midfielder covered every blade of grass as he chased and harried which ever Enfield player threatened to gain possession in the middle of the park. Rovers seemed to have weathered the early onslaught and began to regain some amount of possession. Murray again strode forward in the 52nd minute put drove wide from distance. Larney’s deliveries from dead-ball situations again caused Enfield problems and Carroll should have done better with his header in the 58th minute from Larney’s free-kick. Enfield began to establish a grip in midfield midway through the half and Rovers were forced into a rear-guard action. This began to have its toll as lack of consistent matches lately and a heavy pitch saw Rovers legs begin to tire. Ciaran Flanagan was introduced for Ward in the 63rd and Kevin Lambe came in for the exhausted Lynch in the 75th minute. Rovers were now playing on the counter-attack as the visitors upped the pressure on the home defence in search of an equaliser. The Rovers defence had a few scary moments but with McSkeane, Babbington and Larney shielding them they were holding their opponents at bay. Enfield threw caution to the wind at times in search of a goal which left them vulnerable to the counter-attack. In the 82nd minute Rovers broke up field after Matthews had won possession on the edge of his own area. He picked out Larney in midfield and he quickly passed a ball onto Kerley on the edge of the area with only the Keeper to beat. As he took control and looked to go around the onrushing stopper, he seemed to have his run checked and went down. The official, to the bemusement of the Rovers followers, showed the striker a card for what he saw as assimilation. This seemed to give the visiting side renewed hope of getting back on level terms as they poured forward. Their centre-half was now playing as another attacker and he tried his luck from the edge of the area in the 84th minute but was off target. Within 2 minutes he had an even better opportunity after good approach work put him 1-v-1 with Marron but the tall Keeper brilliantly got down low to turn the goal-bound shot around his upright for a corner kick. Shane McDaniel came in for Kerley to add fresh legs as Rovers sort to hold onto what would be 3 vital points towards promotion and with some last ditched tackling to go with their well organised and hardworking defence, they were able to see out the remainder of the match without conceding.
Full Time: Carrick Rovers AFC 1 Enfield FC 0.
This was 3 valuable, hard-earned points that could make the difference in the race for automatic promotion this season. This match really showed the importance of having a versatile and in-depth squad with injuries and absentees mounting up at such a critical part of the season. It back to Tully Bookmaker’s Cup action next week with Slane Wanderers the visitors to the Ballybay Road on Sunday.