Carew Park leapfrogged Fairview Rangers to go second in the LDL Premier Division after a fortunate victory at the Fairgreen.
Carew were two goals ahead at half time courtesy of a first minute Mark McGrath strike and a dubiously awarded Kieran Hanlon penalty. Their lead was halved midway through the second half thanks to an equally dubious penalty award, converted by AJ O’Connor.
Carew blasted out of the blocks in the opening seconds, with McGrath just failing to make contact with a bicycle kick attempt, after Andrew Walsh had spilled a Tommy Culhane rasper. McGrath would make better contact moments later, taking advantage of the absence of Fairview pressure to slam home a right-footed effort from outside the area.
Fairview wasted two early chances to equalise from set-pieces, establishing a pattern that would persist throughout the game. Paul Danaher kicked off 90 minutes of profligacy from the hosts by somehow heading the ball into Gordon Stewart’s hands at the back post. Christy Doyle then one-upped his centre back by delivering Colm Heffernan’s deflected corner into Stewart’s hands from point-blank range.
Sandwiched in between these clear-cut Fairview opportunities, was the bizarre decision to penalise AJ O’Connor for a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge on Jonathan Grant with the award of a penalty. Hanlon stepped up to power it home and double Carew’s lead.
Despite trailing by two goals, Fairview were surprisingly cautious in their attacking approach. Perhaps mindful of the number of players Carew were leaving forward in the defensive phase, the hosts seemed reluctant to encourage their full backs to advance and take advantage of Carew’s numerical disadvantage on the flanks. This restraint particularly caused dysfunction on the left of the Fairview attack, with Jonathan Hannafin rarely overlapping to complement Dean McNamara’s natural inclination to move inside.
As such, most of the home side’s attacking play was focused down the right hand side, where Dylan Murphy represented the only real wide outlet. Murphy spurned another clear-cut chance for Fairview, when he blazed over Quinn’s through ball. Quinn had received the ball from Christy Doyle, who had dropped off the front to receive a pinpoint pass from the back. This was the kind of variation of movement that Fairview’s front two demonstrated little of this morning.
Heffernan, who created six golden chances today, continued to create opportunities for his teammates to waste. Two blocks from Mark Slattery foiled Christy Doyle’s attempts to convert the veteran midfielder’s through ball down the inside-left. And one of many excellent set-piece deliveries saw Paudie Quinn head an outswinging corner onto the top of the bar.
Quinn went close again right before the break, when a Murphy cross was returned by Christy Doyle at the back post and mishit three yards out.
Carew continued to ride their luck in the second half. Stewart saved another point-blank effort early on, after batting away a Heffernan free kick. And the evergreen netminder came to the rescue again when he rushed off his line to smother substitute Davy Hannon’s attempt to convert another Heffernan through ball.
From the resulting corner, FIFA-accredited referee Dermot Broughton capped a baffling performance by awarding a phantom penalty to Fairview, ostensibly for fouling as the ball was in the air. AJ O’Connor slotted away what one can only assume was an attempt to compensate for the penalty awarded against him in the first half. A sickening blow for Carew’s defence, who saw their six game run of clean sheets evaporate in unfortunate circumstances.
Regardless of the manner of its arrival, this lifeline goal added further momentum to the hosts’ play. They still couldn’t get the ball in the back of net though. Doyle wasted another excellent Heffernan free-kick, when he opted not to go with his head at the back post. And John Mullane saw one clawed off the line from close range, just before his departure from the fray.
Mullane was replaced by the injury-hampered Craig Madigan and the arrival of Fairview’s top goalscorer put Carew under even more pressure. Madigan’s left foot did a great impression of Heffernan’s right by teeing up Quinn at the back post with a free kick. The Fairview striker, who was the hosts’ prime culprit in profligacy today, popped it straight into Stewart’s grateful hands again. Five goals in 12 league starts is not a great return for a forward of his undoubted talent.
His partner Doyle was not far behind however, and this was perhaps playing on his mind when he opted not to play Madigan in on the overlap with five minutes remaining, choosing instead to blaze it over the bar.
The nine minutes of allotted injury time provided Fairview with plenty of time to throw away one more glorious chance; Quinn profiting from the break of the ball to find himself free at the back post again, only to pop it over the bar. Those nine minutes, incidentally, stemmed from Porto (circa 2003) levels of injury-proneness from the tired Carew players.
Carew’s victory here sees them move into second position, two points off leaders Regional United with two games less played. Fairview drop to third, a further three points back, and may come to rue their cautiousness and wastefulness here at the end of the season.
McGrath 1′, Hanlon (pen) 15′; O’Connor (pen) 70′
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