A captivating game saw Shamrock Rovers run out 3-2 winners againt Longford Town on Friday night at Tallaght Stadium. A late Kaleem Simon goal put the home fans on the edge of their seat until the final minute but the Hoops saw out the game to claim their seventh win of the season.
Rovers took an early lead in the sixth minute after an extended period of possession. Pat Cregg laid the ball off on the edge of the Longford box to be hit by the oncoming Brandon Miele. The shot was initially saved by ‘keeper Paul Skinner but was smashed home by an unmarked Gavin Brennan to put the Hoops 1-0 up.
The Tallaght team men sat back on their lead however, as a spirited Longford came back into the game. A Pat Sullivan cross into the Rovers box was mis-punched by Craig Hyland for Longford's most threatening move of the game so far.
The Hoops were frustrated in possession as a bobbling ball aided by loose touches meant Pat Felon's side, playing in a 4-4-2 line up, even with their pressure and possession could not break down the Town’s defensive set up.
The equaliser came for Tony Cousins' men when Pat Flynn, against his former club, outleapt his marker in the middle of the Rovers box to nod in Mark Salmon's corner in the 31st minute for a deserved goal.
The tight defense of Rovers that has seen them concede only four goals in twelve games before this match was put to the test when a long ball over the top found David O'Sullivan but his shot was blocked at the last minute by a sliding Maxime Blanchard.
Both sides took turns at taking the much sought-after lead in this game. Mikey Drennan and Gavin Brennan exchanged passes before the ball was crossed in to find the boot of Danny North in the Longford box. North, starting for the first time since in the league since March, failed to make the desired connection and his shot was blocked before going wide.
Longford came back again when former Rovers midfielder Stephen Rice almost put his side ahead in the 34th minute. A long ball was knocked down by Gary Shaw to find an unmarked Rice who went unnoticed by the Rovers defence but having been allowed a free shot at Craig Hyland's goal he sent it just wide of the post
Rovers took their opportunity to take the upper hand in the game when Simon Madden found Drennan following a breakneck run behind the Longford defence who then found Danny North unmarked to cross low and hard. However there was no Hoops able to get on the end of it in the Longford penalty area and Skinner gathered up.
The Hoops should have been caught out when a routine ball hoofed forward by Longford was not dealt with properly by Blanchard allowing Gary Shaw get in a one on one situation with Craig Hyland in the Rovers goal. Shaw dragged his effort narrowly wide of the goal when he had both time time and space to pick his spot.
The Hoops stepped up their game in the second half knowing that a draw was not a favourable result to keep title aspirations alive. Pat Cregg played in Drennan on the right wing and the forward leaving marker Martin Deady in his dust following a clever dribble to cross low and dangerous into the Longford box but the Town cleared.
Longford were pinned back as chance after chance came Rovers way. Substitute Marty Waters played in Danny North whose weak effort just evaded the corner of the Longford goal. This was followed by a driving run from Keith Fahey from midfield that ended in a fierce shot that was saved by the efforts of a diving Skinner.
A few moments later Drennan would offer another surging run of his own following a cleared ball that saw him turn his marker inside out once again only to see his left-footed shot curl tantalizingly wide of the goal.
Finally Rovers regained the lead in the 67th minute when a deep Waters cross from a corner met the outstretched leg of an unmarked Blanchard. The Frenchamn combined a sliding run with a powerful side-footed effort to knock the ball past a hapless Skinner in the Longford goal.
Waters again was the provider for the Hoops to extend their lead. His free from 30 yards found the head of Blanchard for his second of the night when his header bounced past Skinner to find a pocket of space in the corner of the goal to put Rovers 3-1 ahead.
The game was not to end with that goal though. Following yellow cards for Fahey and David O'Sullivan, second half substitute Kaleem Simon toe-poked the ball past Hyland in the 82nd minute to put the scoreline at 3-2, and Rovers on the alert for the final minutes.
The Hoops however would see the game out in confident and reassuring style going close to adding to their total at the end when Waters hit the post in the final minutes but the match finished 3-2 to the unbeatan Rovers.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, Maxime Blanchard, Luke Byrne; Brandon Miele (Kieran Marty Waters 60), Patrick Cregg, Keith Fahey, Gavin Brennan; Danny North (Gary McCabe 75), Michael Drennan (Gareth McCaffrey 91).
Subs Not Used: Michael Kelly (gk), Tim Clancy, Stephen McPhail, Sean O'Connor.
Bookings: North (40), Fahey (81).
Longford Town: Paul Skinner; Pat Sullivan, Martin Deady, Pat Flynn, Mark Rossiter (Jamie Mulhall 45); Stephen Rice, Mark Salmon, Ayman Ben Momhamed, (William Tyrell 72), Kevin O'Connor, Gary Shaw; David O'Sullivan (Kaleem Simon 67).
Subs Not Used: Paul Hunt (gk), Lorcan Shannon, Conor Dunne, Rhys Gorman.
Bookings: Sullivan (81).
Referee: Derek Tomney
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate)
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Mikey Drennan (Shamrock Rovers)