Rovers 17’s produced their best performance of the season so far in defeating highly placed Johnstown, on the running track pitch on Saturday morning. Short a few regulars, including a recognized Goal keeper, they went into the game with just the bare 12 players against a team with ambitions of winning the league. Rovers started sharply and within the 1st 3 minutes they should have taken the lead when Patrick Larney released Aaron Jones with a defense splitting pass that put Jones 1 on 1 with the keeper but the Johnstown man made himself big and smothered the danger. Within 3 minutes Johnstown had opened the scoring after a mistake at the back by Rovers let the away striker have a run at goal and then he smashed a rising shot over stand-in keeper Ryan Carolan.
This was now going to be a test of the character of these lads and they responded magnificently as they went straight back on the attack looking for an equalizer. After 18 minutes they should have leveled when Cian Matthews intercepted a Johnstown pass and raced forward before finding Rob Berg 30 yards from goal. The midfielder picked out Steven Lynagh’s forward run perfectly but the winger’s effort only ruffled the side netting. On 19 minutes again Rovers should have been level this time Ian Martin received possession inside his own half before finding Kevin Quinn. Quinn strode forward into the opposition half before slipping a pass to Andy Butler who picked out the willing Jones again free in the area. The lively striker breezed past the Johnstown defender but his strike was straight at the Keeper where either side would have resulted in a goal. Carrick now had their tails up and were hunting the ball in packs, not giving the away team any time on the ball. In the 29th -minute they got their reward after a tremendous team goal. Matthews won a tackle deep in his own half before passing to Larney who quickly fed Berg, who is growing in stature with every game that he plays. He drifted past his marker and laid the ball to Butler who played the ball first time to Jones who swilled before sliding the ball into Padraig Marron’s path. The midfielder took a touch before placing the ball right in the bottom corner giving the keeper no chance. In the 35th minute Marron had a chance to put Rovers ahead but his effort just missed the target. Johnstown now began to get back into the game and we witnessed a fantastic display on defending in numbers by the home side, denying Johnstown any clear sight of goal. Just before the half time whistle Rovers forced a corner kick and David Wilson couldn’t get enough of a connection on Marron’s superb delivery.
Half time Carrick Rovers 1-1 Johnstown
Johnstown came out in the 2nd period looking to regain control and this forced Rovers to play a rearguard action, trying to pounce on any opportunity to counter-attack with the lively Jones, Larney, Butler and Jack Corr, who came on for Lynagh just before halftime . Rovers defense brilliantly marshalled by Wilson with Berg inspiring his team mates with his drive and willingness to win the ball back, was limiting Johnstown to play in front of them and with Berg, Marron and Larney biting into the tackle it meant that they could spring onto the attack. On 62 minutes this happened as Marron won a tremendous tackle in midfield and sent Butler away, he got his head up and put Jones in behind the Johnstown defense. Jones took a touch before driving to the end line and flashed a ball across the 6 yard area but there was nobody there to convert. This was a prelude to what was to come as in the 71st minute Martin broke up an attack by Johnstown before finding Berg who sent Jones away again to race into the area and get beyond the away defense but this time Larney had made a great run and he finished the ball to the back of the net. Rovers made their last change, bringing on young Ryan O’Connor for Corr who had ran himself into the ground. This paid off almost immediately as again Jones, who was becoming unplayable, slipped in behind the Johnstown defense and his shot come cross found its way to the back post where O’Connor took his time and got a good connection on the ball to force the ball home. In the 82nd minute Jones should have got the goal that his display deserved when Marron, O’Connor and Matthews combined on the left with the latter swinging a brilliant cross into the Johnstown box where Jones climbed unopposed but couldn’t get his head over the ball to score. Rovers saw out the rest of the game with Carolan having to make no significant saves.
Full time Carrick Rovers 3-1 Johnstown
Team: Ryan Carolan, Kevin Quinn, Ian Martin, David Wilson, Cian Matthews, Andrew Butler, Patrick Larney, Rob Berg, Padraig Marron, Steven Lynagh, Aaron Jones, Jack Corr and Ryan O’Connor.
A tremendous display of both commitment and determination by these lads was rewarded with a win. Anybody who witnessed the game saw a fantastic display of defending and counter-attacking by this team.