Dave Donnelly reports from Tallaght Stadium
Graham Burke’s late penalty saw Shamrock Rovers edge out an exciting Dublin Derby in Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
Bohs finished the game with ten players after James Finnerty was shown a straight red for a last-man foul on Danny Mandroiu but can consider themselves unlucky.
The Gypsies played a full part in a enthralling game and could easily have taken the three points themselves, but fell instead to a fourth defeat of the season.
Dylan Watts had fired the Hoops in front with virtually the first chance of the game before Ross Tierney headed home a deserved leveller midway through the half.
The home side took the front inside the opening five minutes as midfielder Watts reacted quickest to the loose ball after James Talbot had denied Aaron Greene from close range.
It was the result of a well-worked move that Watts release wing-back Liam Scales on the left and, though Talbot turned the cross away, there was nothing he could do about the follow-up.
If Bohs were stunned by the early concession, it didn’t show as they took the game to the champions in a way that few have in the league over the past couple of years.
And they should have leveled inside the opening 15 minutes as Sean Gannon was caught upfield and Keith Ward picked out Liam Burt arriving late in the box.
The Scot, who scored a wonderstrike in Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat to Sligo Rovers, only had to hit the target but he curled his shot past the post from point-blank range.
Keith Long’s side wouldn’t have to wait long for their equaliser, however, as Tierney headed home at the back post.
Georgie Kelly’s inside run dragged in two defenders, allowing the St Kevin’s Boys product to peel away unnoticed and nod home Ali Coote’s cross from close range.
Rovers responded with a flurry of half-chances in quick succession, Danny Mandroiu stabbing Watts’ low corner goalwards before Graham Burke saw a shot blocked.
Sean Hoare and Scales each saw headers miss the target either side of a Burke snapshot as the home side looked to press home their advantage as the half-hour approached.
The speed and movement of Bohs’ attacking line, particularly the runs of Tierney beyond striker Georgie Kelly, were causing Rovers moments of panic at the back.
Former Dundalk striker Kelly found space in the box to dig out a shot but Alan Mannus was alert to save low at his near post.
A powerful run and precise through ball from Chris McCann presented Aaron Greene with a golden chance to put the Hoops back in front.
The Kilnamanagh man, preferred to Rory Gaffney up front, took the ball wonderfully in his stride and looked certain to slot the ball past Talbot but he dragged his shot badly wide.
Burt stung Mannus’ palms with a long-range drive as a breathless first half came to a close with the score, somehow, still one apiece.
The second half was always going to struggle to live up to the pace of the first but Bohs continued to eke out chances from an increasingly anxious-looking Rovers side.
Keith Buckley tested Mannus with a low drive before a swift counter saw Sean Gannon take down Burt as he ran through on goal, and the defender was a touch fortunate to only see yellow.
Rovers were given a massive let-off midway through the half as Burt robbed McCann out wide and crossed low for Kelly.
The goal was at his mercy, having slithered clear of Lee Grace, but the defender did just enough to beat Kelly to the ball and send it centimetres past the post.
The Donegal man had another chance moments later as Coote crossed high to the back post, but he couldn’t direct his glancing header on goal.
And then came the moment that changed the game, and it was orchestrated by Gaffney, who had replaced McCann moments earlier in an aggressive move from Stephen Bradley.
The striker played a precise through ball for Mandroiu, who looked certain to score only for Finnerty to clip his heels.
Referee Paul McLaughlin had little option but to award the penalty and reduce Bohs to ten men, despite the defender’s vociferous protests.
Burke took responsibility for the penalty, despite missing the decisive kick in the President’s Cup defeat to Dundalk. Talbot went the right way but Burke’s kick nestled in the bottom corner.
To their credit, Bohs continued to attack in spite of the man disadvantage and there were some more nervy moments for the Hoops defence in the final minutes.
They managed to hang on, however, for a vital three points that moves them ten points clear of their rivals after only seven games.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Sean Gannon (Ronan Finn 57), Chris McCann (Rory Gaffney 71), Dylan Watts (Gary O’Neill 63), Liam Scales; Danny Mandroiu, Graham Burke, Aaron Greene.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Max Murphy, Darragh Nugent, Aidomo Emakhu, Dean Williams.
Booked: Sean Gannon (53), Ronan Finn (61), Sean Hoare (83).
Bohemians: James Talbot; Andy Lypons, Rob Cornwall, James Finnerty, Tyreke Wilson; Keith Buckley, Ali Coote (Conor Levingston 80), Ross Tierney; Keith Ward (Ciaran Kelly 76), Liam Burt, Georgie Kelly.
Subs not used: Stephen McGuinness (gk), Rory Feely, Dawson Devoy, Promise Omochere, Anto Breslin, Robert Mahon, Jack Moylan.
Booked: Ali Coote (71), Keith Buckley (90+2).
Sent off: James Finnerty (75).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ross Tierney (Bohemians).