Shamrock Rovers unpick Derry City at the death in Tallaght

Rovers extended their lead at the top to four points with win at Tallaght Stadium

Shamrock Rovers’ Daniel Mandroiu scores at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Shamrock Rovers’ Daniel Mandroiu scores at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Shamrock Rovers 1 Derry City 0

“That’s why we’re champions” - the Shamrock Rovers fans have a point. Stephen Bradley’s side was decidedly average in their top the table clash against Derry at Tallaght Stadium, but for all their flaws managed to unpick their visitors at the death thanks to yet another goal from substitute Danny Mandroiu.

For the first half at least, this was a case of the two best sides in the league cancelling each other out. Out of the two, Derry will have been the more frustrated at the goalless scoreline at the break, the two best chances of the opening 45 falling their way.

Jamie McGonigle continually opened up holes in the Rovers backline with his diagonal movement, albeit no threatening final pass was initially supplied. His first dangerous moment came with a delicate first-time flick to drag two defenders out of position, only for Brandon Kavanagh to overhit the return ball with space in front.

His best chance came from another beautiful first touch, this time Kavanagh getting it spot on with a left-footed cross that curled towards the back post. How McGonigle didn’t score on the half-volley from yards out was beyond most, though Alan Mannus deserves credit for occupying enough space to make the stop.

Heavy chance

That wasn’t the first time Derry were wasteful in front of goal. Minutes earlier, Rovers coughed up possession inside their own half to leave three red shirts running at just two green ones. The ball was worked past those two defenders perfectly, only for the chance to go awry thanks to a heavy touch from Joe Thomson with just Mannus to beat.

Rovers proved less open from then on, gradually holding onto the ball more with Jack Byrne dropping deep to try and influence proceedings. Derry marshalled him well, not allowing him the space other sides have this season while plenty of red shirts were happy to sit in the box, deterring those pinpoint long balls over the top that have burned other opponents.

The hosts simply could not pick their way through Derry’s compact system in the middle of the park. Their best forays forward came from Ronan Finn and Chris McCann driving from deep into wide channels, though for all the latter delighted the crowd with a nutmeg of Danny Lafferty, no clearcut chance was fashioned.

Shamrock Rovers’ Roberto Lopes and Matty Smith of Derry City in action at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho
Shamrock Rovers’ Roberto Lopes and Matty Smith of Derry City in action at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

The second half began along a similar theme. Rovers continued to spend long periods on the ball, but it was Mannus who remained the busier ‘keeper as Lafferty stung his palms on the counter. Another chance came via a Will Patching cut-back only for a last-ditch Sean Kavanagh challenge to prevent a certain goal, before Sean Hoare then had to deflect a goal-bound effort.

Rovers’ improvement was gradual, Byrne seeing one threatening ball into the area cut out before another ran across Rory Gaffney nicely only for the striker to fail to get his shot away.

Graham Burke did slightly better moments later with a shot into the side netting from just inside the box, while his cutback from the byline should have led to the opening goal when Hoare blazed over from yards out.

If one side was going to nick it late on, Rovers’ incremental build made them the favourites and they finally had their moment on 79 minutes. Andy Lyons initially set things up, cutting back inside onto his right to send an effort towards the bottom corner. Brian Maher did well to save low to his left, but was powerless to stop Mandroiu from tapping in the rebound.

Not that Derry and McGonigle would go away completely. His touch to Thomson off his chest should have led to a chance 10 yards out but again Rovers scrambled well.

That was as close as Derry got to an equaliser as Rovers extended their lead at the top to four points. Given their recent ability to eke out results when not at their best, not to mention their oft-praised squad depth, who knows how big the gap could be when these sides meet again in August.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Gannon (Kavanagh, 51), Lopes, Hoare; Finn (capt) (Cotter, 81), Towell, McCann, (Watts, 68) Lyons; Byrne, Burke, Gaffney (Mandroiu, 68) .

Derry City: Maher; Lafferty, Toal (capt), S. McEleney, Boyce; Dummigan, Thomson, Patching, Kavanagh (Akintunde, 67); McGonigle, Smith (E McLaughlin, 78).

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