Roe Rovers first round tie threw up an unknown to them, last sixteen last year and unbeaten and yet to concede in their League but not a top flight side so the questions needed answers. With other North West teams Churchill, Draperstown, Douglas, Claudy Utd, Claudy Rovers, Lincoln, Artigarvan, Limavady rugby, Greysteel and Tullyally all exiting in the first round Roe knew they needed to up their game to avoid the same fate.
Several goalkeeping options came up short and so Matty Hamilton had to go between the sticks. This means he has now played in every position for the Rovers, a first for sure. For Rovers Tony Clyde answered them emphatically with a 10 minute hatrick. Five minutes in Conor Mullan rolled a great ball inside the full back to Finbar O’Brien who made the right decision in drilling low into the box and Tony Clyde smashed his shot in off the post. A couple of minutes later Brendan McGonigle and the impressive Erne keeper where in a race and the keeper raced outside his box to clear and half cleared and Conor Mullan ten yards inside the half attempted to knock it long first day into the open net and missed by inches. Tony Clyde collected a ball just inside the half a minute later and made a great positive run beating defender and rounding the keeper and scoring his second. Erne then had a breakaway that took a fantastic goaline clearance from Denim Wray to keep out.
In the 15th minute Clyde completed his hatrickfollowing a simple and swift move. Matty Hamilton passed out to Tommy Hassan and he played wide to Chris Doyle and then to Conor Mullan and then Clyde. Four passes front back to front for a goal, excellent football and Roe Rovers looked like they might rack up a big score line. Erne’s pacy number 9 broke clear in the 20th minute and was one on one with Hamilton and shot low but Hamilton saved with an outstretched left boot. From Matty’s save Jack McGonigle then crafted himself an opening and shot near post for the top corner and the keeper did well to keep the explosive effort and keep his side in the tie. Ciaran Deery who was man of the match was next to try his luck after a great run and then a good through ball from Clyde and Deery shot just over the top corner.
Clyde should have had his fourth when it fell to him in the six yard box from a corner but he had to react quickly and snatched a shot over. Ciaran Deery was destroying Erne with his blistering runs from deep and Rovers knew another before the half would kill the tie. Jack McGonigle made a couple of great runs and the first he squared the ball for Clyde but the keeper saved well. The next two he was crudely interrupted with a couple of sything tackles. Mullan came close in the last minute of the half but it remained 3-0 at the break. Rovers withdrew young Jack McGonigle to protect the lad as he had been singled out for a couple of meaty tackles and they were three up. The loss of the exciting young talent didn’t help Rovers cause though.
The opening 20 minutes of the restart where cagey and other than the explosive driving runs of Deery neither side created a lot. Then after 63 minutes Erne grabbed a goal from a scrappy goal line scramble. Rovers should have sealed things five minutes later when Gerdy O’Kane showed good hold up play and good intelligence reversing a good pass into the path of Deery who ran from deep. Deery crossed low and picked out Timmy Douglas who did everything right opened up his body side footed for goal and the keeper got lucky spreading himself and blocking the shot. The rebound even hit Douglas in the chest and went wide for a goal kick such was the striker’s bad luck.
Alan Nicholl and Gerdy O’Kane combined well and O’Kane switched a good cross to Douglas who stretched and knocked the ball goal wards but it was cleared off the line. Deery was still breaking the Erne player’s hearts with his runs and Tommy Hassan did well to win a ball defending a corner and carry it out of defence and send Deery charging away again. Deery was upended on shooting but the referee didn’t give the foul. Five minutes from the end of the 90 and Erne hit a long shot that looked to be heading wide and then dipped and hit the cross bar and it fell to the alert striker who had followed in to make it 3-2.
Deery again was unlucky when he broke free and looked to have scored but the keeper saved again with his feet this time. Erne had a big shout for a penalty in stoppage time and their captain missed a free header from a corner in the last minute of the added 7 minutes that left Roe Rovers shacking their heads at how they could be 3 up in 15 minutes have half a dozen great saves made against them and almost draw the game. The final score ended 3-2 And Rovers are in the next round and played some impressive football at times but this was too close a score line and more clinical punishing teams when on top is required.
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