Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers got back to winning ways after four straight defeats and moved three points clear at the top of the table thanks to a 2-0 win over Waterford on Friday night – the brace by Danny Mandroiu earning the Hoops their 11th straight win over the Blues.
The best chances of the opening half came in the very first few minutes and the very last of the opening 45. Shamrock Rovers dominated the play throughout the first half and should have taken an early lead but they couldn’t break down the Blues and allowed them a couple of sights of goal just before the break.
Both managers made three changes to their starting team with Pico Lopes returning for Rovers after playing in two World Cup Qualifiers for Cape Verde during the week.
His team should have been one or even two goals up inside the first seven minutes. Danny Mandriou had a header from inside the six yard box that he sent straight at Brian Murphy and then when he beat Murphy a few minutes later the ball came back off the woodwork.
Marc Bircham’s team came into the game in much better form than Rovers with the Blues claiming six wins and two draws in their last nine games. The Blues boss deployed his team with a back three but the wing backs – Niall O’Keefe and Prince Mutswunguma – were pegged back for much of the game by a Rovers side who dominated the play.
Rovers got themselves a couple of first half corners that they couldn’t exploit and on a couple of occasions some loose passes in midfield – from left wing back Aaron Greene and Barry Cotter playing behind him on home debut – allowed the Blues to break but they didn’t test Alan Mannus.
A couple minutes from the break Greg Halford’s long throw was flicked on by Cotter but Shane Griffin was wasteful at the back post – as was Anthony Wordsworth who could only hit the side netting with all of the goal to aim at from the corner of the six yard box when he got on the end of Griffin’s freekick.
The Hoops started the second half really strongly laying siege to Waterford’s goal. Crosses came in from Greene, Sean Gannon and Ronan Finn that all had to be cleared by the Blues defence.
A clash of heads on 56 minutes saw Greene replaced by 17-year-old Aidomo Emakhu off the bench as Cotter moved into Greene’s role and Gary O’Neill moving into the back three. Soon after Dylan Watts had his long range effort turned around the post by an outstretched Murphy hand.
Emakhu gave Rovers fresh impetus and he forced a corner off a backpost header and then on the hour mark his shot was blocked by the hand of Eddie Nolan – who went in referee Rob Harvey’s book for the infringement on the edge of the area.
On his return from his one-match ban following recent Dublin derby in Dalymount Park, Mandroiu slotted home the resulting free kick for his seventh league goal of the season.
He should have made it eight goals a few minutes later and some in the crowd thought he had but his shot just rippled the side of Waterford’s net.
The Hoops forward wasn’t to be denied though and he exploited Halford’s error to slot the ball by Murphy to make it 2-0 ten minutes from time.
The win moves Rovers three points clear of second placed St. Patrick’s Athletic and they have two games in hand over the Saints ahead of their trip to Sligo Rovers next weekend while Waterford remain in eight.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Gannon, Roberto Lopes, Barry Cotter; Ronan Finn (c), Gary O'Neill (Chris McCann 83), Richie Towell, Dylan Watts (Conan Noonan 87), Aaron Greene (Aidomo Emakhu 56); Daniel Mandroiu, Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Lee Grace, Neil Farrugia, Dean McMenamy, Max Murphy, Dylan Duffy..
Booked: Aaron Greene (41), Gary O'Neill (79).
Waterford: Brian Murphy; Cameron Evans, Greg Halford, Eddie Nolan; Niall O'Keeffe (c), Darragh Power; Shane Griffin (Junior Quitirna 66), Anthony Wordsworth, Prince Mutswunguma (Isaac Tshipamba 76);Phoenix Patterson, John Martin.
Subs not used: Matthew Connor, Jeremie Milambo, George Forrest, Kyle Ferguson, Jack Stafford, Cian Kavanagh, Jamal Dupree .
Booked: Greg Halford (7) Eddie Nolan (60).
Referee: Rob Harvey.
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate)
extratime.com Player of the Match: Danny Mandriou (Shamrock Rovers)