Macdara Ferris reports from Bishopsgate
Shamrock Rovers broke the hearts of Longford Town for the second time this season with an injury time winner as De Town lost their fourth game in a row. Rory Gaffney was the hero for the Hoops scoring in the fifth minute of injury time – his fifth goal of the season.
Having only got a point from their last three games, it looked like Rovers would leave Bishopsgate with a draw, only for the late late drama once again – the Hoops have earned eight points with goals scored in stoppage time so far this season.
The champions go into the mid-season break in second place just a point off table toppers Sligo Rovers while Daire Doyle’s men remain a single point clear of Waterford who sit bottom of the table (having lost in Dalymount Park).
The Hoops dominated possession in the first half and after a slow start came into the game more and more as the first period went on.
As in recent games Danny Mandroiu was deployed deep by Stephen Bradley as the Hoops have struggled with an injury crisis. On the eve of flying out to join the Republic of Ireland senior squad, the skills that saw him called up by Stephen Kenny was very much in evidence.
He got on the ball willingly, and his full range of passing was on display – although he was wayward on a couple of occasions. Between himself and Liam Scales on the left, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before a decisive touch from either of the duo would give the Hoops the opener.
Indeed, Graham Burke, who is nursing an injury that he is playing through, almost gave Rovers the lead inside 15 seconds with a shot that just went wide of Lee Steacy’s goal. On the half mark Burke once again went close with a shot that just drifted wide of De Town goal and Mick McDonnell did well to block another Burke effort.
Daire Doyle wasn’t afraid to have Rob Manley and Aaron Dobbs play high to take it to the Hoops back three but they never forced Alan Mannus into a save in the opening period.
An Aaron McNally driven cross that hit Lee Grace inside the Rovers penalty had the shouts go up around Bishopsgate for a penalty but Ray Matthews deemed that the ball had hit the stomach of the Hoops player. The Rovers defence certainly looked more secure with Sean Hoare returning to the starting XI following a two game suspension.
The best chance of the half fell to Scales who found himself free at the back post on 27 minutes but he let Sean Gannon’s cross come onto his head rather than power forward to trouble Steacy.
Stephen Bradley’s side did have the ball in the back of the net a couple of minutes later when Rory Gaffney finished Scales’ centre only for the referee to spot a handball by the Hoops striker.
Paddy Kirk’s long throw ins kept the Hoops on their toes in the second half but all the best chances fell the way of the visitors. Burke took a low free kick around the wall on 56 minutes that Lee Steacy did ever so well to save and then the Ireland international really should have put the Hoops one up on 64 minutes.
Scales took the ball to the end line and pulled back for Burke but his low shot went the wrong side of the post from a Rovers perspective.
Longford did press at times and certainly didn't just sit back happy to get a point but they ended up getting punished.
The Hoops kept going to the end of they got their reward with Gaffney’s late goal. Danny Mandroiu’s cross saw Lee Grace head on target. Steacy’s save pushed the ball out to Gaffney who drilled it home for the winner.
Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Aaron McNally (Karl Chambers 57), Michael McDonnell, Aaron O'Driscoll, Patrick Kirk; Aodh Dervin, Aaron Robinson, Callum Thompson (Dylan Grimes 56), Dean Zambra (c); Rob Manley (Joe Manley 90), Aaron Dobbs (Dean Byrne 76).
Subs not used: Michael Kelly, Conor Davis, Aaron Bolger, Aaron McCabe, Matthew O'Brien.
Booked: Rob Manley (4), Aaron Dobbs (43).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Roberto Lopes (c), Lee Grace; Sean Gannon, Daniel Mandroiu, Gary O'Neill (Chris McCann 82), Liam Scales; Aaron Greene (Dean Williams 74), Rory Gaffney, Graham Burke.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Adam Wells, Aidomo Emakhu, Dean McMenamy, Max Murphy, Darragh Nugent, Cole Omorehiomwan.
Booked: Graham Burke (46) .
Referee: Ray Matthews
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Liam Scales (Shamrock Rovers)