Rovers score first to coast past Bohs for derby spoils

Rory Gaffney finish keeps champions on top after tough week for manager Stephen Bradley

Shamrock Rovers 1 Bohemians 0

Losing to Dundalk last week proved a blip for Shamrock Rovers as Stephen Bradley’s team reasserted control of the title race with victory over an old enemy.

The Dublin derby came with its usual rancour but Rovers scored first through Rory Gaffney before crowding out Bohemians speculative attempts to salvage a draw. At the end of a tough week for Bradley, who is dealing with a family illness, the locals gave him the ‘Stephen Kenny treatment’ on full-time with some full-throated platitudes.

The evening started like a train but finished with a heavy dose of reality as the champions-elect made Bohs look like also-rans. Dundalk’s scoreless draw with Shelbourne at Tolka Park eases Rovers seven points clear at the top.

If aliens crash landed in Tallaght and trailed the 7,445 crowd streaming off the Luas red line they would have discovered a crackling atmosphere under an Irish sun, broken floodlights, blustery winds and looming thunder clouds.

All at the same time.

They would quickly realise that Andy Lyons wore a Bohs shirt in the recent past and Danny Mandroiu, Rovers’ creative engine until Jack Byrne fully heals, also made the move out of town. They would see Promise Omochere raiding off the left, yet praise Pico Lopes for dampening the flames, much like the one man fire brigade tasked with extinguishing 10 flares thrown on the pitch by visiting fans before kick-off.

Lopes was busy early on, guiding Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe over the end line before denying Liam Burt a clear sight of goal, as Bohs went straight for the jugular.

But the early goal they needed to make a true contest out of the derby never came. In fact, Rovers could have taken the lead from Mandroiu’s slick ball for Lyons or when Sean Hoare’s in-swinger gifted Aaron Greene a free header at the back post.

Omochere has flaws but the 21 year old’s size and agility proved a constant nuisance with one particular refusal to give up the ghost leading to Dawson Devoy blasting over the crossbar. Devoy hit the bulls eye with a tougher opportunity against Shels last Friday.

Down the other end, Mandroiu whizzed a shot past the post just before half-time.

Taking a leaf out of their guest’s playbook, Rovers tore into the second half with Gaffney, at the second time of asking, opening the scoring when Mandroiu touched on Dylan Watts’ corner. It remains a mystery how Gaffney failed to score from the initial attack, shooting straight at Bohs goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan after another Watts delivery.

But Rovers had the goal to mute the Bohs faithful and turn up the volume in Tallaght stadium. Reacting to the change of mood, Hoare came up for another Watts corner that forced Conor Levingston into a goal line clearance.

The squeeze continued with Omochere feeling plenty of Rovers studs as Sean Kavanagh, Mandroiu and Watts all picked up yellow cards for hacking the big winger. Mandroiu’s foul looked nasty but the midfielder swallowed his booking before heading onto the top of Ryan’s nets after a quality cross by Gaffney.

The constant attention shown to Omochere was understandable as every time Bohs created a one on one for him anywhere near the Rovers box a goal seemed possible.

Ali Coote also saw yellow for tripping Mandroiu’s attempt at a snappy counter attack.

Really, the game settled into a familiar rhythm after Gaffney’s third goal in the last five games. Omochere remained a threat, nodding a corner just wide, but Rovers seemed comfortable pressing high or dropping deep to force Bohs to take risks.

It is never a good sign when Bohs are chasing a late point without their Scottish duo, Burt and Coote, who were both pulled by Keith Long as Bradley could replace a jaded Mandroiu with an athlete like Barry Cotter.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Hoare, Lopes, Grace; Lyons, O’Neill, Watts, Kavanagh (Gannon, 68); Greene (Emakhu, 78), Mandroiu (Cotter, 88); Gaffney (McCann, 78).

Bohemians: Ryan; Murphy, Feely, Doherty, Flores; Devoy, Coote (Twardek, 71), Levingston; Omochere, Burt (Mallon 86); Ogedi-Uzokwe.

Referee: Rob Harvey.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent