Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers made it six wins in a row in all competitions with yet another late late win over Longford Town on Sunday afternoon. Twice this season the Hoops had secured wins over De Town with injury time winners and they did it again with Liam Scales scoring in the 95th minute to make it a very happy 23rd birthday for the Rovers player.
The Hoops will travel to Albania mid-week for the second leg of their third qualifying round UEFA Europa Conference League tie sitting three points clear top of the Premier Division table.
For Longford Town, they remain routed to the bottom of the table and with Finn Harps’ win in Sligo on Saturday night, De Town are a dozen points off safety.
With one eye on next week’s Europa Conference League qualifier, Stephen Bradley made seven changes to his starting line up from the 1-0 first leg win over Teuta.
The match winner from that European tie 17-year-old Aidomo Emakhu made his first start for Rovers and was very lively in the opening 45 minutes.
He was too quick to the ball four minutes in for Longford Town left back Paddy Kirk who was lucky to maybe only get a yellow card from referee Rob Hennessy as he sliced down Emakhu.
Two minutes later Aaron O’Driscoll fouled the teenage striker on the edge of the area and Graham Burke’s free kick just fizzed by the right hand post.
Rovers certainly had more of the ball in the game but the visitors showed a lot more attacking endeavour than the Albanian champions Teuta who were here in Tallaght earlier in the week.
Pico Lopes twice was forced to concede corners, the first coming after he needed to time his block of an Aaron Dobbs shot as the former Hoops player raced onto a ball over the top.
Liam Scales showed the pace and timing that is making him such a coveted player on 20 minutes, when he slid in to take the ball off the toe of Rob Manley as De Town player was about to shoot.
A free kick from Richie Towell straight at Lee Steacy and a header from Lopes were two more chances that came the way of Stephen Bradley’s men before the break but it remained scoreless at half-time.
Emakhu had the first effort on goal of the second half. The Longford defence backpeddled allowing him to take the ball on but he just hit his low effort wide of the goal from the edge of the area.
There were five substitutes just after the hour mark with Stephen Bradley bringing Dylan Watts, Danny Mandroiu and Rory Gaffney off the bench as they chased the opening goal and Ronan Finn was on the field soon after.
Daire Doyle made two switches but his side remained resolute in the defence after the introduction of Aaron Robinson and Karl Chambers.
Substitute Rory Gaffney went close with a shot from outside the area but there was plenty of frustration from the home crowd of 1,500 as their team couldn’t break down the visitors – the final ball always failing to fall to a green and white shirt.
Alan Mannus was called into action to save Aaron Dobbs’ shot whefn Longford had a rare break into the Rovers half.
On a four occasions in the last quarter Graham Burke had sight of goal but his efforts were too tame to beat Lee Steacy who was well positioned and on his toes to gather the ball cleanly. The ‘keeper did excellently to save and hold onto Burke’s shot two minutes from time and he batted away a dipping Burke shot in the six minutes of injury time.
The Longford resolve only took them so far though and five minutes into injury time Liam Scales leaped to power home Hoare's cross for the winner off the post.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Roberto Lopes, Liam Scales; Max Murphy (Ronan Finn 66), Chris McCann (Dylan Watts 61), Richie Towell (Daniel Mandroiu 62), Sean Kavanagh (Lee Grace 89); Aaron Greene, Graham Burke, Aidomo Emakhu (Rory Gaffney 62).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Joey O'Brien, Gary O'Neill, Conan Noonan.
Booked: Chris McCann (35).
Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Aaron McNally (Joseph Manley 85), Michael McDonnell, Patrick Kirk; Aodh Dervin, Dean Zambra (c); Rob Manley, Aaron O'Driscoll, Matthew O'Brien (Aaron Robinson 62), Dylan Grimes (Karl Chambers 62); Aaron Dobbs (Callum Warfield 73).
Subs not used: Michael Kelly, Ben Lynch, Aaron McCabe, Conor Davis.
Booked: Patrick Kirk (4) Karl Chambers (73).
Referee: Rob Hennessy
extratime.com Player of the Match: Liam Scales (Shamrock Rovers)