CABINTEELY FC 0
SHELBOURNE 1 (Hughes pen)
Report courtesy of extratime.ie
A first half penalty by Philly Hughes was the difference as Shelbourne scraped a 1-0 victory over Cabinteely to take all three points at Stradbrook on Friday night.
Hughes’ first competitive Shelbourne goal since 2012, and his first strike in the First Division since 2011, was enough to earn Shels their third 1-0 win on the bounce in all competitions and keep them joint top of the table alongside Finn Harps and Athlone Town with seven points.
Though both sides had chances, neither could find the net from open play with Cabinteely ultimately failing to breach a Reds rearguard that has yet to concede a goal in the 2015 campaign. It was the Southsiders’ first home defeat of the season and their second in succession following last week’s 2-0 loss to Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
The match started five minutes late due to an issue with one of the nets, and the late kick-off was only five minutes old when referee Michael O’Connor had a major decision to make.
A Jake Donnelly delivery into the six yard box came off Reds midfielder Craig Walsh, and with Cabo ‘keeper Evan Whelan scrambling backwards to keep the ball out, Walsh joined the chorus of Shels fans behind the goal screaming that it had crossed the line. O’Connor got it right, though, as Whelan had done well to keep it out.
The much maligned surface of the Stradbrook rugby pitch made it difficult for either side to get the ball down and create, with both teams ultimately resorting to long ball tactics to advance the play further up the pitch and away from their respective danger zones.
Shelbourne took the lead in the 30th minute through that man Philly Hughes. Walsh drew a clumsy foul in the box to earn the spot-kick and Hughes duly stepped up to convert his first league goal since netting a late consolation for Drogheda United in a 3-2 defeat to Shamrock Rovers in April 2014.
It was also Hughes’132nd league goal in League of Ireland history, moving him up to joint15th in the all-time scoring charts alongside Hoops legend and former Republic of Ireland international Mick Leech.
Cabinteely fought to get back into the game, with Shane O’Neill just failing to get onto the end of a Kevin Knight cross from the left-wing just before half-time. O’Neill had an even better chance to pull his side level just past the hour mark. A ball over the top saw him find space behind the Shels backline, but instead of bringing the ball forward, O’Neill took on the half volley from 30 yards which never troubled Reds goalkeeper Greg Murray.
In the end, Shels were very much indebted to Murray for the win as he made a couple of key interventions over the course of the game to preserve Shels’ clean sheet record, including a one-on-one save from Ger Pender with only nine minutes remaining. The striker had been played through by O’Neill but Murray came flying out to save the well struck low effort with his legs.
Cabinteely began piling bodies forward in search of an equaliser, but it was Reds substitute Mark Sandford who had a late, late chance in stoppage time to finish the game off when he was played through from midfield. The striker seemed to do everything right, maintaining his composure and waiting until the last possible second for the ‘keeper to go down, but his finish was weak and Whelan was able to save with his trailing leg to keep the score at 1-0.
Ultimately, Kevin Doherty will say his side were worth the slender victory, while Eddie Gormley will feel aggrieved that Cabo didn’t at least get a point from a game in which his centre-back Victor Ekanem was the dominant performer from both sides – the 26 year old Nigerian didn’t lose a physical battle in the air or on the ground all night, though he did pick up a silly booking for throwing the ball away in frustration at a decision given against his side.
Cabinteely FC: Evan Whelan, Victor Ekanem, Daniel Campbell, Lloyd Cairns (Conor Foley 86′), Robert Maloney, Evan Finnegan, Jordan Buckley, Aaron Brilly (John McKeown 73′), Kevin Knight, Shane O’Neill, Ger Pender.
Susbtitutes not used: Gavin Fahy, Shane Fagan, Bobinel Mazono, Tyrone McNelis, Eoin O’Sullivan.
Shelbourne: Greg Murray, Daire Doyle, Evan Osam, Ryan Robinson, Sean Heaney, Jake Donnelly, Alan Kehoe (Conor Earley 79′), Craig Walsh, Philip Hughes (Mark Sandford 61′), Colm Crowe, Alan O’Sullivan.
Substitutes not used: David Ryan, Jordan Keegan, Darragh Gannon, Maunel Rodreguez, Gareth Coughlan
Referee: Michael O’Connor.
Attendance: 600 (estimate).
Extratime Man of the Match: Victor Ekanem (Cabinteely).