Shamrock Rovers moved three points clear at the top of the table with a 4-1 win over Waterford at the RSC on Friday night.
They had to come from behind to do so after Eric Molloy gave the Blues an early lead but a Graham Burke brace and goals from Rory Gaffney and Aaron Greene sent the Hoops clear at the top – helped by Sligo Rovers losing 2-0 to St. Patrick’s Athletic in Inchicore.
Last week Waterford had got a moral boosting first win under Marc Bircham against FAI Cup holders Dundalk and when they went 1-0 up against the league champions thanks to a deflected shot Molloy shot on six minutes the returning fans to the RSC were in full voice.
Sean Gannon stepped out from the Rovers right wing back position to try and close down Adam O’Reilly but that allowed O’Reilly to slip a pass through to Molloy on the left and when he cut in and shot, the ball diverted off Sean Hoare’s back to beat Alan Mannus.
The Hoops were handed the opportunity to equalise soon after when Gannon’s cross hit Jamie Mascoll’s hand in the Blues’ box. Burke made no mistake from 12 yards to score his third spot kick of the season.
Stephen Bradley’s side were sluggish enough in the first half and Waterford took the game to Rovers when they could.
Just after the half hour mark Molloy forced Mannus into another save – the Rovers ‘keeper was making his 150th league appearance for the club on the night.
The team went in level at the break but mistakes proved costly for the home side in the second half with a Cameron Evans error allowing a long ball over the top to reach Rory Gaffney three minutes into the second period.
The Galwegian took the ball on and beat Brian Murphy with a low shot for his sixth of the season. Burke joined Gaffney on six goals for this campaign when he tapped in Greene’s low cross on the hour mark when Greene beat Jack Stafford in a race onto the ball down the right.
Greene then rounded off the scoring for Rovers on 68 minutes when Gaffney turned the provider to square from the left.
That goal wrapped up Rovers’ eight consecutive league win over Waterford and left the Blues in the relegation playoff spot and just one point above bottom placed Longford Town who picked up a point away to Dundalk on Friday.
For Rovers the result provided three points breathing space at the top of the table going into Monday night’s Dublin Derby in Dalymount Park against Bohemians.
Waterford: Brian Murphy; Jamie Mascoll, Cameron Evans (Tunmise Sobowale 70), Darragh Power, Jack Stafford; Eric Molloy, Shane Griffin, Niall O'Keeffe, Adam O'Reilly (Katlego Mashigo 77); John Martin, Prince Mutswunguma.
Subs not used: Liam Kervick, Kyle Cooke, Matthew Connor, Cian Browne, Callum Stringer.
Booked: Prince Mutswunguma (19)
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Roberto Lopes, Sean Hoare, Lee Grace; Daniel Mandroiu, Sean Gannon, Chris McCann (Gary O'Neill 66), Liam Scales; Aaron Greene (Dean Williams 71) (Darragh Nugent 71), Rory Gaffney (Aidomo Emakhu 71), Graham Burke (Ronan Finn 66).
Subs not used: Max Murphy, Leon Pohls, Adam Wells.
Booked: Graham Burke (58)
Referee: Adriano Reale
extratime.com Player of the Match: Rory Gaffney (Shamrock Rovers)