Shamrock Rovers 3 St Patrick’s Athletic 1
Shamrock Rovers superior weaponry - namely Richie Towell and Danny Mandroiu - made this top of the table, Dublin derby seem less like either of those billings.
Rovers took a first half lead via Mandroiu’s cool finish but they might be critical of themselves for not adding a second or even a third before John Mountney’s delicious free kick brought the sides level at the turn.
To suggest the equaliser came against the run of play is an understatement. Rovers had their neighbours on the rack and they resumed the torture when Roberto Lopes glanced home a Dylan Watts corner on the hour mark.
Mandroiu – living his best life in the number 10 role where Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny briefly considered capping him this summer – put the tie beyond St Pat's with his second goal long before the finish.
In a game of high quality, one subplot was unmissable. Towell and Alfie Lewis are different breeds of midfielder, but they rarely strayed far from each other.
That was down to Towell being a constant menace on the right of Rovers’ central trio, which perhaps prompted Lewis to keep tabs on him.
Picking up anyone joining Rovers rapid counter attack, but particularly Towell, was the duty of St Pat’s increasingly valuable water carrier. Lewis, the 21 year old product of West Ham United, was effectively charged with stubbing out any danger before Towell or Mandroiu could light the fuse.
The greasy surface helped the Essex man’s task no end. When Towell did shimmy into open grass on 26 minutes, his standing leg slid from beneath him and the ball sprayed wide.
It proved a mere warning shot. Lewis fully aware that the primary threat was a player who has scaled the heights he still craves to reach across the water.
Towell remains a cut above League of Ireland standards.
The 30-year-old needs constant surveillance to stymie those lung bursting raids into the box.
Not 60 seconds after Mandroiu expertly finished past St Pat’s goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros, Towell sprinted away from his young minder only to head Rory Gaffney’s cross over the crossbar.
The narrative briefly changed as Mountney's up and down strike beat Alan Mannus but Rovers composed themselves at the break to move three points clear with a game in hand.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; Finn (Gannon 82), O'Brien, Lopes, Grace (Kavanagh 82), Scales; O'Neill, Watts (Greene 82), Towell; Mandroiu (Hoare 82), Gaffney.
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: Jaros; Barrett (Coughlan 58), Bone (Nwoko 87), Desmond; Mountney, Benson, Forrester, Lewis (McCormack 75); McClelland, Burns, King (Melvin-Lambert 75).
Referee: Derek Tomney.