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Daniel Lafferty 4' -
Dave Donnelly reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers took a decisive step towards a first league title in nine years as they edged out second-placed Bohemians to open up a five-point lead at the top of the table.
Danny Lafferty’s fortuitous strike in the fourth minute proved the difference as the Hoops beat their city rivals by an identical score to their opening-day triumph at Dalymount Park.
The game was billed as a potentially pivotal one in the title race - a Bohs win would see the Hoops toppled from their perch for the first time this season.
That never seemed like a realistic possibility from the moment Lafferty blocked down Andy Lyons’ careless clearance to break the deadlock.
Rovers controlled the better part of the game without offering much in the way of a goal threat themselves, while Bohs only really began to fire in the dying stages.
The visitors did register the first shot on target, however, as Andre Wright tested Alan Mannus from 20 yards after Danny Grant forced the Rovers defence to backtrack with a confident run.
It would have taken a superb effort to trouble Mannus but the former Northern Ireland international needs no reminder of how this fixture can inspire a moment of magic in any player.
Mannus was helpless to repel a thunderbolt from Danny Mandroiu in this fixture early last season, however Keith Ward was preferred from the start to the Ireland under-21 playmaker in Tallaght.
It was Rovers’ own temperamental technician, Graham Burke, who put in motion the sequence of events that led to the opening goal.
The striker cut in from the right and whipped an inswinging cross towards goal that Jack Byrne dummied, forcing Stephen McGuinness to make the save.
The 'keeper parried the ball to Lyons, who didn’t surveille his surroundings before attempting a lackadaisical clearance. Lafferty needed no bigger invitation and cushioned the ball home.
The Derryman fired his first and second goals for the club in Monday night’s FAI Cup win over Cork City and, after a year without a goal, suddenly can’t stop scoring.
The performance on Monday earned him the left wing-back slot ahead of Neil Farrugia, who spent the week training with the Irish under-21s, and Lafferty repaid his manager’s confidence.
He, along with captain Ronan Finn who was making his 300th appearance for Rovers, provided the width that allowed Rovers to boss much of the first hour, though they would create little in front of goal to match their general play.
Burke looked the likeliest to make something happen for the home side but he was restricted to shots from distance, pulling one shot wide and firing a free kick at McGuinness.
The best chance of the half went Bohs’ way as another slaloming Grant run saw him pull the ball back from the endline but Wright and Kris Twardek missed their cues and JJ Lunney fired over.
The second half proceeded much as the first, with Rovers neat, tidy and ultimately unthreatening, while Bohs were content to keep it tight and hope to take their chance when it arrived.
The introduction of Mandroiu for the final quarter saw Keith Long’s side step it up a notch as the former Brighton man dropped between the lines to provide a different creative option.
His terrific free kick delivery should have delivered the equaliser but James Finnerty couldn’t guide his back-post header into the net.
There would be more chances in the final ten minutes, the best of which fell to sub Dinny Corcoran, who blasted over from 12 yards as a flat-footed Rovers defence froze.
That was to prove the Gypsies’ final chance and, with just eight games left to play, they will need to rely on the kindness of strangers as the Hoops title hopes are now firmly in their own hands.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Liam Scales; Aaron McEneff, Daniel Lafferty (Neil Farrugia 80), Ronan Finn, Gary O'Neill; Aaron Greene (Rhys Marshall 89), Jack Byrne, Graham Burke (Dylan Watts 73).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Joey O’Brien, Dean Williams, Thomas Oluwa.
Booked: Lee Grace (35), Gary O’Neill (72), Daniel Lafferty (77).
Bohemians: Stephen McGuinness; Anto Breslin, Dan Casey, James Finnerty, Andy Lyons; Keith Buckley, JJ Lunney (Dawson Devoy 77), Keith Ward (Daniel Mandroiu 66); Daniel Grant, Kris Twardek, Andre Wright (Dinny Corcoran 85).
Subs not used: James Talbot (gk), Ciaran Kelly, Conor Levingston, Promise Omochere.
Booked: JJ Lunney (29), James Finnerty (32), Keith Buckley (90+5).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers).