Shamrock Rovers 2 Derry City 1
Champions Shamrock Rovers came from behind at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night to earn all three points against Derry City in the Airtricity League Premier Division.
Following the concession of an early goal to ex-Hoops star Daniel Lafferty, Lee Grace and Danny Mandroiu fired home to edge Stephen Bradley's men into the driving seat. Matching the result of St Patrick's Athletic in their tussle with Drogheda United, this keeps the title holders nine points clear at the summit of the table with a game still in hand.
There was just one change from the Derry side that comfortably defeated Longford Town on a 3-0 scoreline at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium last Friday week, with Jack Malone coming in for Will Fitzgerald. This proved to be a shrewd move on the part of Candystripes boss Ruaidhrí Higgins as the Academy graduate's excellent set-piece on the left-wing was clinically headed to the net by Lafferty in the sixth-minute. Though this was an early setback for the Hoops, it didn't take them long to produce an appropriate response. After Richie Towell forced a fine stop out of Derry netminder Nathan Gartside, Rovers skipper Ronan Finn had a shot that was deflected just past the target.
Selected at right wing-back, Finn subsequently became the architect for his side’s equaliser on 19 minutes. He unleashed an enticing cross into the area, where Hoops centre-half Grace was on cue to find the Derry net with a powerful header.
While Rovers were expected to push on for the remainder of the opening period, diligent defence from Derry looked set to leave the teams inseparable at the break. That was until Mandroiu capitalised on superb build-play by Rory Gaffney to fire to the bottom right-hand corner on the stroke of half-time.
This left Rovers in a strong position on the resumption, but Lafferty’s close-range miss off a Malone corner on 52 minutes was a reminder that the Candystripes still posed a threat on the night. Derry went on to enjoy a sustained spell of possession, before Rovers pushed hard for a third goal past the hour mark.
Gaffney had a header turned away by the outstretched arm of Gartside, while Roberto Lopes and Dylan Watts were narrowly wide of the mark as the Hoops sought to place the outcome beyond doubt.
Clear-cut opportunities were few and far between inside the final-quarter with Derry doing their best to make life difficult for the home team. Nevertheless with Aaron Greene, Chris McCann and lively teenager Aidomo Emakhu adding fresh legs off the bench, Rovers comfortably saw out the game to move a step closer to back-to-back league crowns.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; Gannon, Lopes, Grace; Finn, Watts (Greene, 71 mins), O'Neill, Cotter (McCann, 79 mins); Mandroiu (Farrugia, 79 mins), Towell; Gaffney (Emakhu, 84 mins).
DERRY CITY: Gartside; Boyce, Toal, McJannet, Lafferty; Malone (Fitzgerald, 75 mins), Harkin, Hery (McLaughlin, 65 mins), Ogedi-Uzokwe; Akintunde, McGonigle.
Referee: P McLaughlin (Donegal).
Drogheda United 0 St Patrick’s Athletic 1
St Pat’s left it late to snatch victory against Drogheda United. Alfie Lewis delivered the winner. He found the top corner from the edge of the area as the clock ticked into the fourth minute of time added on.
With Rovers holding a commanding lead, the win consolidates their place in the race for Europe. For Drogheda they are looking nervously over their shoulder at the teams below them.
Before the winner arrived Ronan Coughlan met Sam Bone’s header but couldn’t match the power with the necessary direction.
After a run from the excellent Darragh Burns, he pulled back for Chris Forrester. His shot was blocked on the line by the impeccably positioned Joe Redmond.
A forgettable first half was followed by a much more spirited second-half display by Pat’s. Prior to the goal the biggest cheer of the night was delivered by the travelling contingent of supporters. They welcomed Lee Desmond on to the field as substitute, seven weeks after his sustaining a serious head injury .
The home side saw their best chances go begging before the interval. Mark Doyle’s shot and Killian Phillips long range effort could not be considered clear cut.
DROGHEDA UTD: Odumosu; Redmond, O'Reilly, Massey; Brown, Heeney (Murray, 82) , Phillips, Kane; Clark'e (Markey, 56); Doyle, Adeyemo (Lyons, 57).
ST PATRICK'S ATH: Jaros; Bone; Barrett, Abankwah (Desmond, 64), Griffin; Lewis, Lennon (Nwoko, 87); Burns, Forrester (McCormack, 73), Smith; Coughlan (King, 73).
Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo)
Finn Harps 2 Dundalk 2
Tunde Owolabi bagged the equaliser with his second goal of the game as Finn Harps and Dundalk played out a thrilling draw at a rain-soaked Finn Park.
Having fallen behind to Owolabi’s first-half goal, Dundalk struck with two goals in 90 seconds in the second half and looked set for victory.
But Owolabi proved to be the hero for the Donegal side who, like Dundalk, are battling the relegation play-off berth.
Patrick Hoban twice went close for Dundalk early on but Harps took the lead on 19 minutes when Webster found Owolabi with his back to goal on the edge of the box, and the Belgian-born striker swivelled before firing low and hard past Peter Cherrie.
The striker went close to doubling Harps’ lead with a header from a Barry McNamee cross on 33 minutes.
Dundalk drew level on 61 minutes. Will Patching was fouled by Johnny Dunleavy and Michael Duffy fired home a wonderful 25-yard free. Harps were soon behind when the visitors were awarded a penalty for a challenge on Hoban by Shane McEleney. Hoban made no mistake from the spot. But Owolabi earned Harps a point on 69 minutes when he beat Cherrie with a fine strike.
FINN HARPS: Doherty; Boyle (Foley, 88 mins), McEleney, Webster, Mustoe; Rainey (Sadiki, 76 mins), Dunleavy (Hawkins, 65 mins), Connolly, McNamee; Owolabi, Boyd (Coyle, 65 mins).
DUNDALK: Cherrie; Dummigan,, Boyle, Cleary, Leahy; Stanton, Sloggett; Murray (Jurkovkis, 64 mins), Patching (Ben Amar, 87), Duffy; Hoban.
Referee: A. Reale (Kildare)