Gorey Rangers 0 Shamrock Rovers 0
Gorey Rangers and Shamrock Rovers remain deadlocked at the top of the Premier Division after playing out an eventful 0-0 draw at a chilly Ramstown on Sunday.
The home side have been a welcome addition to a title race that has been monopolised by both Rovers and North End in recent times, and while the draw here extends their unbeaten run to nine matches, they could have easily secured all three points with a bit of luck at the death.
Their defence had repelled the visitors all day long, but as the clock ticked into injury-time, Rangers knitted together one of their best moves.
Substitute Joe Bolger quickly fed Gavin O'Brien down the left side of the box, and his low cross was met on the turn by Paul Murphy, but the centre-half slipped in the process of connecting and agonisingly saw his effort hit the butt of the post.
The same player was put through by another substitute, Jamie Howard, two minutes into injury-time, but his lofted effort over stranded Rovers goalkeeper Lee Murphy was skewed wide, with the full-time whistle sounding shortly afterwards.
The Enniscorthy club now have a ten-match unbeaten run themselves and they arrived in Gorey having scored twelve more goals than their title rivals, although they had also conceded twice as many as the miserly Rangers, who still boast the best defensive record in the league with only four goals shipped. As one would expect for such a high-stakes game, the exchanges were often fiery and full-blooded, with Rovers' Marty Kelly perhaps lucky to escape with just a yellow card censure after a late, crunching tackle on Conor Casserly on five minutes.
Ricky Fox had the first decent chance of the game when teed up by John O'Connor, but he was off-cue from outside the box.
Their colleague, Jonny Dwyer, saw his optimistic appeal for a penalty fall on deaf ears, although Gorey's netminder Seán Allen breathed a sigh of relief when he upended Chris Kenny right on the periphery of the box on 13 minutes at the expense of a fruitless free-kick.
Midfielder Stephen Kinsella had a couple of shots in response for Rangers, including one that flew inches wide on 34 minutes, before Allen showed his true worth a minute later when he scampered across his line to pull off a masterly save after O'Connor had directed a header goalwards when meeting Dwyer's cross.
The second-half resumed with James Carty handling the ball about 30 yards out at the dressing-room end, only for Gary Murphy's sweetly-struck free-kick to rebound off the crossbar in a moment of real quality.
Dwyer conjured up some magic too on 58 minutes when his expansive pass was taken down beyond cover by Fox, but his low shot was knocked behind for a corner.
Rovers had six corner-kicks overall (the same total as Rangers), but never troubled a composed home defence.
They did, however, have the most gift-wrapped chance of the entire game on 70 minutes when Kenny found himself one-on-one with Allen, but he somehow blasted over with the goal at his mercy.
In hindsight, that could have made all the difference, but in the end a draw was the fairest result.
Gorey Ranger: Seán Allen; Conor Casserly, Ryan Cullen, Paul Murphy, Gary Murphy; David Behan, Gavin O'Brien, Stephen Kinsella, Stephen Moloney, Nathan Brennan; Seán Roche. Subs. - Joe Bolger for Roche (53), Kevin Kennedy for Behan (71), Jamie Howard for Moloney (75).
Shamrock Rovers: Lee Murphy; James Carty, Seán Millar, Ian Sinnott; Martin McKeown, Jonny Dwyer, Ricky Fox, Marty Kelly, John O'Connor; Chris Kenny, Eamon O'Brien. Subs. - Mikey Dempsey for O'Connor (46), Dan Carroll for Dwyer (66).
Referee: Derek Campion.