Stephen Bradley on being five points clear with five games to go: ‘If you said to me at the start of the year that would be the case, I'd have taken that all day long’
Macdara Ferris reports from UCD Bowl
Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley was left ruing a missed opportunity for his Rovers side on Friday night after they were held to a scoreless draw in UCD – a result which relegated the Students.
With second placed Derry City losing in Sligo, there was the chance for the Hoops to move seven points clear at the top of the table with just five games remaining.
However, Rovers couldn’t break a resolute UCD down and so while they are now five points clear of the Candystripes with five games remaining, St. Patrick’s Athletic are now back in the mix.
The Saints, who host the Hoops in the penultimate game of the league season, are six points back but have a game in hand that they play at home to Drogheda United on Monday evening.
In Belfield, Bradley’s boys, with 79% possession, racked up 19 shots but couldn’t find the back of the net. They only put four of their efforts on target (while UCD had just the one shot target in the game – with an xG of 0.01).
“The final bit to put it in the net was the killer,” said Bradley speaking about his side’s play after the final whistle.
“Off the top of my head we had seven or eight really good opportunities to finish around the box and we didn't take them. If one of them goes in, it is a completely different game. It just wasn't to be tonight. Everything else was decent. We need to look at what we did tonight and what we can do better to win that game.”
Since their eight man loss to Cork City in May, Rovers have just the one defeat in their last 13 league games – winning seven of those matches.
“We wanted to win it and we did everything possible to win it but on Saturday we wake up a point better off in the lead. Five points (clear) with five games to go, we'll take that. If you said to me at the start of the year that would be the case, I'd have taken that all day long.”
UCD put particular emphasis on marking Neil Farrugia who was making his first start since his injury in June. “He was very good. He got in and the keeper made a great save but he should have squared it for Rory (Gaffney) to finish. That was the only fault with his performance.
“Overall he was really good and caused them problems. They ended up doubling up on him and bringing their centre midfield over as well so there were three players out of the game at that point. That is how dangerous he was."
A strong defensive display from the Students in a scoreless stalemate against Shamrock Rovers wasn’t enough to save them from relegation— Extratime.com (@ExtratimeNews) September 23, 2023
League Report: UCD 0 - 0 Shamrock Rovers - https://t.co/94rjArr8tjhttps://t.co/ZiAQodjnfX
Next up for Shamrock Rovers is Friday’s fixture at home to Shelbourne before the Hoops have a three week break due to international fixtures and their Cork City away game being moved due to the Leesiders’ involvement in the FAI Cup semi-final.
extratime.com asked Bradley about his approach for this period and the Hoops boss confirmed they are looking to line up some friendlies against Premier Division opposition that they will not face in the title run in according to Bradley.
“We are trying to get games to play as it is a gap we don't want. We will try and get some good games. That is the plan to organise that. They will be within Ireland and we have contacted a few clubs already.
"We are waiting on word back on days and times. We are finished with a lot of (League of Ireland) teams now and have played them four times so that gives us options.”
Katie McCabe: ‘It's not just about the squad walking out (on Aviva pitch), it's about everybody who's played their part over the course of the last few years’ - https://t.co/94rjArr8tjhttps://t.co/IcSNdUKGcV— Extratime.com (@ExtratimeNews) September 23, 2023