Shamrock Rovers 1 UCD 0
Neil Farrugia struck a 13th-minute goal against former club UCD at Tallaght Stadium on Monday night to move Shamrock Rovers five points clear of Derry City at the summit of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table.
With just six games remaining in this season’s top-flight, Stephen Bradley’s men are in control of their own destiny as they aim to secure a third consecutive title. UCD are still a point clear of basement side Finn Harps at the far end, but will more than likely be set for the relegation playoffs even if they finish above the Donegal men.
Eager to improve on last Thursday’s scoreless draw with Shelbourne at Tolka Park, Rovers went close through Jack Byrne in the early stages of their latest Dublin derby. Rory Gaffney also had a shot comfortably saved by Lorcan Healy, before playing a big part in the only goal of the game.
After bursting through towards the byline on the left hand side, the Galway native poked the ball into the area where ex-Students star Farrugia was on hand to finish from close range.
Although Dylan Duffy offered an occasional threat in the final third for UCD, Rovers ultimately led 1-0 at the break and were on course for their 19th win of the campaign.
The visitors were forced into a half-time change with Kian Moore taking over from Healy between the sticks. The English-born netminder had received treatment after saving a Gaffney effort with his head just past the half-hour mark and despite carrying on for the rest of the opening period he didn’t sufficiently recover from this knock.
The back-up shot-stopper was kept busy upon his introduction as he saved efforts from Graham Burke, Gaffney and Dylan Watts. Gaffney also hit the side-netting at the beginning of the half, but Hoops custodian Alan Mannus was forced into a superb fingertip save from Duffy in the 63rd-minute.
Aaron Greene was almost immediately brought off the bench to give Rovers an extra option in attack that might help unlock the UCD rearguard for the second time in the game. The lively Burke was close to wrapping up the three points 13 minutes from time as his delicate chip drifted marginally wide of the target.
Byrne and Greene also fired wide in the closing moments and even though a second goal didn’t materialise, Rovers came away with the result they wanted.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; Gannon, Grace, Cleary; Farrugia, Watts (Lennox, 90 mins), O’Neill (Greene, 64 mins), Kavanagh; Byrne, Burke (Finn, 85 mins); Gaffney.
UCD: Healy (Moore, 46 mins); Todd, Osam, Dunne (Gallagher, 75 mins); Caffrey, Keane, Higgins (Haist, 69 mins), Keaney; Brennan, Duffy; Nolan (O’Connor, 84 mins).
Referee: Kevin O’Sullivan.