Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers took another step towards their first league title since 2011 with a 6-1 win over Waterford in Tallaght on Monday evening. The Hoops now need a minimum eleven points from the remaining 18 on offer to earn the club's 18th league title.
The Hoops scored four goals in an eight minute period either side of half time through Aaron Greene, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace and Jack Byrne against a shell shocked Waterford side. Although in the second half Michael O’Connor did get a goal back for the Blues it was in between goals from Graham Burke and a late strike by Dean Williams.
For much of the first half, the visitors had defended resolutely and as the game moved towards half time they began to put some pressure on the Hoops. However, Rovers blitzed the Blues with three goals just before the break to effectively end the game as a contest at half time.
Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley had brought Dylan Watts, who has played every game this season, in for his sixth start of the season in place of Gary O’Neill for the only change from the team who played AC Milan last week. It was Fran Rockett’s first match in the charge of Waterford and his team came into the game having won their last two games against Dublin opposition and putting them right in the mix for Europe so it was a disappointing, heavy defeat for the visitors.
Rovers dominated the opening period as the Blues seemed happy to sit off the Hoops. Aaron McEneff and Aaron Greene both came close to the opener inside the first six minutes and they should have had the lead on 21 minutes. Graham Burke ran onto Watts’ through ball and rounded Brian Murphy but inexplicably he could only put the ball into the side net.
Ali Coote and ex-Hoop Michael O’Connor showed some nice touches around the Rovers box. Coote in particular looked threatening running at Rovers and only a deflection took O’Connor’s shot clear of the target.
But just as the Blues were coming into the game, they found themselves a goal down. Greene allowed Neil Farrugia’s pass to run through his legs to confound Jake Davidson and spinning goalwards he drilled the ball by Murphy from close range on 41 minutes - his third goal in the last two league games.
Two minutes later the Hoops made it 2-0 with Jack Byrne whipping a corner kick right onto Lopes’ head. Watts then pressurised Jake Davidson into conceding another corner and it was almost a carbon copy goal for the third as this time Lee Grace headed Byrne’s set piece into the net from the edge of the six yard box for his first goal of the season.
It didn’t get any better in the second period as Byrne bagged Rovers’ fourth just four minutes into the half. Ronan Finn collected a pass from Joey O'Brien and the Rovers captain’s cross was flicked on by Farrugia into the path of Byrne at the back post and he made no mistake.
Burke grabbed the fifth Rovers goal on his 27th birthday rounding off a sweeping move from Rovers with Farrugia centrally involved. His pull back was dispatched into the back of the net with ease by Burke.
Both managers made switches at this point with seven substitutions made across a four minute period before Waterford got a goal back. O’Connor’s well placed shot off Tyreke Wilson’s centre had enough pace to beat Alan Mannus’ left hand – the first goal Rovers had conceded in domestic action for six matches.
Dean Williams got the sixth in the final minute of the game – his first goal in the Premier Division for Rovers – and now the focus for the Hoops switches to Sunday’s trip to play the champions Dundalk at Oriel Park.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien (Liam Scales 60), Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Ronan Finn (Rhys Marshall 64), Dylan Watts, Aaron McEneff (Gary O’Neill 60), Neil Farrugia (Sean Kavanagh 60); Jack Byrne, Aaron Greene (Dean Williams 64), Graham Burke.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Thomas Oluwa.
Booked: Graham Burke (90).
Waterford: Brian Murphy; Olawutunmise Sobowale, Jake Davidson, Robbie McCourt, Tyreke Wilson; Kurtis Byrne (Will Fitzgerald 64), Ali Coote, Robbie Weir (Darragh Power 84), John Martin (Niall O'Keeffe 64), Matty Smith; Michael O'Connor.
Subs not used: Paul Martin (gk), Tadhg Ryan (gk), William Longbottom, Dean Walsh.
Booked: Ali Coote (29).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Roberto Lopes (Shamrock Rovers).