By Dave Donnelly
League of Ireland Premier Division
Shamrock Rovers 1 – St Patrickís Athletic 1
STEPHEN O’Donnell has called on his St Patrick’s Athletic side to set Friday’s performance as a benchmark after a late equaliser denied them an opening-day win at champions Shamrock Rovers.
Elation turned to despair in the Saints camp in the space of little over a minute as Aaron Greene’s fine header cancelled out an own goal. Roberto Lopes’ unfortunate 87th-minute own goal did at least bring an end to an unwanted record of not having scored at Tallaght Stadium in the league in five years.
The failure to hang on for the three points, however, will stick in the craw but only if the Inchicore side fail to follow it up against newly-promoted Drogheda United on Saturday afternoon.
“Obviously when you go 1-0 up so late in a game and let it slip you’re naturally disappointed but I’m very happy with the attitude and application of our players,” said O’Donnell.
“On the whole ,I thought it was a spicy game in the sense of a Dublin derby, first game of the season. I thought it was played at a proper tempo.
“I’m delighted with the way our lads finished the game. It’s something to build on but it’s only something to build on.
“I think Rovers were proper at it in terms of intensity so we stood toe to toe and we’re very happy with that.
“We’re just going to keep working hard, I have a real hard-working honest bunch and one I can’t wait to keep working with. The honesty of effort and application was there.
“We know when we get to a crescendo against the best team that we can match them but, ultimately, it’s about doing it week on week, it’s no good doing it in fleeting appearances.”
Hoops coach Stephen Bradley, who saw his side salvage their 23-game unbeaten run in the league, also took the positives from a performance that saw them pass up a number of scoring chances.
He said: “We had enough chances to be well out of sight. I knew it was going to take time for the game to settle and for us to get control of it, being a Dublin derby in the first game.
“Once we matched that and took control, we had enough chances to be out of sight and we didn’t take them. We were guilty of trying to score a perfect goal. we’re in the box trying to pull it back and pass instead of just finishing. We can’t look for the perfect goal.
“We got hit with a sucker punch but we showed tremendous character and belief to come back and get the point in the end.”
The game burst to life in the final half-hour following what had been a feisty and well-contested, if stop-start, opening 60.
Graham Burke played out a running battle with the Athletic’s goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros, who pulled off a string of impressive saves on his debut since joining from Liverpool.
Saints were compact, hard-working and disciplined off the ball and carried a threat on the counter that led to the opener three minutes from time.
A Rovers attack broke down and Pats broke quickly, Robbie Benson breaking through on the left before aiming a cross to the near post that Lopes could only head past keeper Alan Mannus.
Rovers regrouped well, however, and salvaged a point barely a minute later as sub Greene rose to steer a wonderful header past Jaros.