Shamrock Rovers’ ambitions of retaining their Airtricity League Premier Division title took another blow as they shared a 0-0 draw with a battling Bray Wanderers at Tallaght Stadium on Friday evening.
The hosts had the better of the first-half but Gary O’Neill, Daryl Kavanagh and Billy Dennehy were all guilty of glaring misses.
Substitute Gary McCabe looked lively upon his introduction with his 78th minute strike cannoning off the crossbar ,while Bray went closest through two Jason Byrne efforts within quick succession.
A fourth-minute Kavanagh turn and shot aside, there was little to commend the Hoops’ opening and they should have fallen behind five minutes later as Adam Hanlon got behind Conor Powell all too easily but his subsequent shot was blazed high and wide from 12 yards.
What ensued was a game of cat-and-mouse, with the Hoops pressing consistently, especially down the flanks. However, Ronan Finn tried his luck from a central position only to be denied by Darren Quigley at the second attempt.
Rovers upped the ante, with Kavanagh guilty of a glaring miss in the 27th minute when he glanced wide from six yards after Dennehy had curled an inviting cross into his path.
Dennehy was next to spurn a glorious opportunity six minutes later as he somehow contrived to hammer his shot over the crossbar after Finn had delivered a delicious cross-shot into his path.
The half ended in a similar vein with O’Neill the culprit on this occasion as he failed to get sufficient accuracy on his header from another telling Dennehy centre deep into injury time.
The hosts continued to prompt as the second period began, and McCabe danced delightfully through three defenders in the 62nd minute prior to unleashing a powerful drive that Quigley gathered safely.
Within two minutes, Rovers’ profligacy continued as Dennehy outfoxed Shane O’Connor superbly but his low cross was wasted by O’Neill, who failed to make an adequate connection as the ball squirmed away to safety.
With Rovers becoming increasingly desperate, they left themselves exposed at the back and required an excellent fingertip save by Oscar Jansson in the 71st minute to maintain parity.
Four minutes later, Byrne was placed through on goal by Sean Houston’s superbly timed ball but the veteran blazed narrowly wide as the game bizarrely remained goalless given the number of opportunities created.
The home side’s frustrations were encapsulated 12 minutes from time as the impressive McCabe saw his powerful drive from distance cannon off Quigley’s crossbar and away to safety.
Shamrock Rovers: Jansson; Sullivan, Oman (McCormack, 36 mins), Hawkins, Powell; Kavanagh (McCabe, 61), Turner, Finn, O’Donnell (Brennan, 38), Dennehy; O’Neill.
Bray Wanderers: Quigley; S O’Connor, D O’Connor, Mitchell, Massey; Hanlon (Kelty, 82 mins), Zambra, K O’Connor, Mulroy, Houston; Byrne (Akinade, 88).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Cork).