Frustration, anger & disappointment.
Just three of the non explicit words I could use to describe my feelings after last night’s performance.
It all started off so brightly with Rovers, with Gavin Brennan having a shot deflect off a defender and go out for a corner in the opening minute of the game. Killian Brennan then fouled a RoPS center half trying to get onto the end of a Simon Madden cross just a couple of minutes later.
RoPS won their first corner of the game after Madden misplaced his header back to Craig Hyland in goal and he failed to keep it in play. The initial ball was allowed to bounce in the box before a weak header from Stephen McPhail only saw the ball go as far as the RoPS player waiting for it on the edge of the box. His powerful strike back into a crowded box deflected off Jarkko Lahdenmaki into the back of the net.
In the aftermath to the goal leading up to half time, Rovers didn’t look threatening at all and tension was starting to build in the stands. Rovers were knocking the ball around the half way line before eventually hoofing the ball up to the isolated Gary Shaw, who with no support struggled to make anything out of the long balls being played to him.
Boos could be heard as the half time whistle went and they were justified after an extremely poor first half. Going into the break, the Hoops had failed to register a shot on target or even remotely test the RoPS goalkeeper Antonio Ruguero.
As the teams reemerged for the second half, I, like most other fans in the stadium were really hoping something had changed. Sadly, as we were to learn in the opening eleven minutes of the half that was not the case with the exact same style of football being played. Eleven minutes into the second half, Gavin Brennan was replaced by Dean Clarke. Brennan’s constant sloppy play and his inability to keep the ball were finally noticed by Fenlon. Less than a minute after the substitution Rovers had their first shot on target of the game and it came from Clarke. A good through ball from Madden and Clarke cut onto the right foot and drove it at Ruguero in the RoPS goal.
At this point I was really hoping this would be the turning point of the game and something would finally click. But as I’ve got used to this season I was once again disappointed as nothing with the style of play changed. The constant holding of possession by knocking the ball around the half way line before a long ball towards Shaw which nine times out of ten came to nothing.
RoPS never threatened during the second half until the introduction of Alexander Kokko. A counter attack from RoPS on the 75th minute seen Kokko cut in from the left hand side skip around three Rovers players in the box and tee up Janne Saksela who placed the ball passed Hyland to give the Finnish side a two goal advantage.
At that point, I had no hope. Constant poor play and failure to create any clear cut opportunities and with the Lapland outfit now having two away goals, I felt this tie was dead and buried. My spirts were lifted slightly though as we managed to register out second and third shots on target of the day one which was tipped onto the crossbar by Ruguero but came to nothing.
By the end of the game it seemed as if the players themselves had given up hope. With the tempo seemingly dropping to the lowest it had been the entire game. The body language from some of the players towards the end of the match was one of hopelessness.
What seemed like the longest ninety minutes of the season finally came to an end as the final whistle was blown and was welcomed by boos from the stands. One of the worst performances of the season was rightly punished by RoPS who have put themselves in an almost untouchable position with their two away goals. If Rovers head out to Finland with the same game plan as they did tonight they may as well save the club a bit of money and no bother travelling because they have no hope. From the constant hopeless long balls from the back, to the in ability in put a good cross into the box, to the shambolic performance of every single one of the players tonight. Tonight’s performance was not just an embarrassment to the club, but to Irish football in general.