Shamrock Rovers 1 Bohemians 0
As always seems to be the way with these games, the losers headed for home on Saturday believing that they had been hard done by but the deeper sense of anguish around the Bohemians camp as they wandered away from Tallaght on Saturday must have been the knowledge that if Shamrock Rovers now push on and, as they should at this stage, win the league, the two Dublin derbies will get a mention every time the story of the successful campaign is recounted.
The home side led from the fourth minute thanks to what Keith Long characterised as a "naïve" goal for his side to concede. Graham Burke's cross had looked harmless enough until Ronan Finn had stepped over it, suddenly leaving Stephen McGuinness to make a hurried save and when Andy Lyons then sought to turn and clear, Danny Lafferty only had to stick out a boot to ensure the ball ended up in the back of the net.
The timing left the visitors with a lot of scope to get themselves back level and though it was even enough through the first half, they had the better of things once things settled down a little after the break. Alan Mannus was never forced into making a single save of real quality, though, with James Finnerty and Dinny Corcoran passing up opportunities late on and so Keith Long and co. were left disgruntled about a penalty decision that didn't go their way.
Danny Grant certainly seemed outraged enough at the time to suggest he felt that Liam Scales had body checked him as he sought to move across the box at speed but the more you watched the replays afterwards it really was difficult to see what the Rovers defender had done wrong other than get nutmegged by his opponent who then proceeded to run into him.
Scales, who impressed late on as the pressure mounted, might actually have been luckier to have gotten away with tugging the shirt of Kris Twardek under a corner in the first half but having been well placed to see that incident, referee Derek Tomney seemed to file away under: 'If you gave every one of those...'
Long, inevitably, believed his side should have at least one of the spot kicks but he accepted that they had been generally disappointing on a day when they could have gone top of the table but instead ended up trailing their rivals by five points with just eight games left to play.
“We didn’t test them enough,” he accepted afterwards, “we didn’t stress them enough. We didn’t drag them out into wide areas and play our game. It’s difficult because we know we’re better than that but that’s easy to say now, we’ve lost the game. Shamrock Rovers have won 1-0 and we didn’t work their goalkeeper enough. In the second half there were balls flashing around the box and maybe if you get on the end of one of those. But we had 45 minutes wasted today.”
The Bohemians boss acknowledged that Rovers are now firmly in the driving seat as this shortened title race starts to edge towards its finish line. Stephen Bradley, meanwhile, was playing down the scale of his side's advantage but he suggested that the character shown by his players here was evidence that they have whatever it takes to get the job done.
“As a game it was a typical derby, a scrappy game at times and the fact that it was first against second, it was never going to be a pretty football match,” he said.
“I can’t remember too many brilliant football matches in the derbies but I was delighted with the players, we felt it would be that game but we had to be ready for it and the players showed whether it’s a real football match or a scrappy second-ball game they can come out on top and that’s a sign of a good team.”
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Grace, Lopes, Scales; Finn, O'Neill, McEneff, Lafferty (Farrugia, 80 mins); Burke (Watts, 73 mins), Greene Marshall, 89 mins), Byrne.
Bohemians: McGuinness; Lyons, Finnerty, Casey, Breslin; Buckley, Lunney (Devoy, 77 mins); Grant, Ward (Mandroiu, 66 mins), Twardek; Wright (Corcoran, 86 mins).
Referee: D Tomney (Dublin).