Shamrock Rovers return to the top of the table

Defending champions come from behind against Dundalk

 Sean Gannon celebrates scoring his goal for Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Sean Gannon celebrates scoring his goal for Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Shamrock Rovers 3 Dundalk 1

Shamrock Rovers got the perfect pre-European boost by going three points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table with a come-from-behind victory over Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium.

Having taken just eight points from their last nine matches prior to last night, Stephen Bradley’s side’s form was a concern ahead of their Champions League trip to face Slovan Bratislava on Wednesday.

However, victory over their Co Louth rivals means they move clear at the top of the table - for 24 hours at least - and will travel to Slovakia brimming with confidence.

The Hoops had to do things the hard way after falling behind to a Patrick Hoban goal early on but sensational strikes from wing backs Liam Scales and Sean Gannon had them ahead at the break before Aaron Greene ensured the victory in the second half.

Richie Towell’s debut against the club he scored 43 goals in 96 games for between 2013 and 2015 was one of the major talking points before kick-off but he had a moment to forget in the 12th minute as he was caught in possession in the build-up to the lead goal. The former Salford player had his pocket picked by Michael Duffy who slipped Hoban in for a cool finish past Alan Mannus.

Vinny Perth, who had taken seven points from nine since returning as Dundalk head coach last month, will rue the fact his side failed to double their lead at that stage. Firstly Duffy had strong penalty appeals turned down after a tumble with Scales in the box before Mannus came to his side’s rescue on 22 minutes with a brilliant save to keep out Hoban’s header from a Raivis Jurkovskis cross.

Rory Gaffney then went close with an effort that deflected wide off Andy Boyle before teeing up Greene for a shot that Alessio Abibi did well to save.

The equaliser then arrived in spectacular fashion on 37 minutes when Scales won a 50/50 ball with Hoban before charging forward to curl a superb shot to the top left hand corner.

Gannon then ensured Rovers would lead at the break with a brilliant strike to the right hand corner of the net against his old club in the second minute of stoppage time after Towell’s free kick had broken to him at the edge of the box.

Dundalk enjoyed most of the possession on the restart but it was the home side who bossed the chances with Sean Hoare volleying wide before Greene passed up two good opportunities in quick succession - firstly being denied by Abibi before firing agonisingly wide from the resultant corner after it had been flicked on by Roberto Lopes.

Substitute Danny Mandroiu then flashed a shot just over from the edge of the area on 74 minutes before Greene put the game to bed a minute later with a brilliant finish across Abibi to the bottom right hand corner.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Hoare, Lopes, Grace; O’Neill; Gannon, Towell (Mandroiu 67), Finn, Scales (O’Brien 79); Gaffney (Watts 73), Greene.

Dundalk: Abibi; Jurkovskis, Boyle, Nattestad, Leahy; Stanton (Kelly 64), Sloggett (Zahibo 33); McEleney, Patching (McMillan 77), Duffy; Hoban.

Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo).

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