SHAMROCK ROVERS continued their march towards Europe with a fine 1 - 0 win in Tallaght over western rivals Sligo Rovers on Friday night.
The only goal of the game came from Simon Madden to seal the win for the Hoops, who were dominant from start to finish right throughout the game.
Madden struck on the half hour mark after Waters capitalized on a poor header from Kaelen Spilliane that allowed him to have the shot. It was saved but Madden followed up to finish past Gary Rogers in the Sligo goal.
Sligo boss John Coleman left former Shamrock Rovers striker Eamon Zayed out of the Bit O'Red squad, instead going for Evan McMillian up front.
Shamrock Rovers manager Pat Fenlon opted to make three changes from the side that defeated Longford Town in the FAI Cup with Luke Byrne, Kieran Marty Waters and Paddy Cregg coming into the side in place of David O'Connor, Gary McCabe and Dean Kelly.
Cregg was starting for the Hoops for the first time tonight in a midfield three beside Stephen McPhail and Robert Bayly.
It was the Rovers in green and white that started the brighter with Marty Waters and McPhail going close inside the first two minutes.
McPhail couldn't compose himself when the ball fell into his path six yards out and his skewed shot flew over Gary Rogers’ goal.
A minute later Marty Waters had a golden chance but his long range shot didn't trouble the Sligo goalkeeper as it flew over.
Shamrock Rovers took the initiative after that and forced the issue high up the pitch with Karl Sheppard impressing for the home side.
The industrial striker nearly opened up the scoring when he collected a pass from Sean O'Connor on the turn but he couldn't make it count.
Rovers didn't have to wait much longer for that goal when two minutes later a deflection off Spillane fell into the path of Marty Waters. He burst into the box and let rip but the goalkeeper could only parry it into the path of marauding full back, Madden.
The cool finish settled the nerves in Tallaght Stadium as the fans willed their heroes on in search of a decent League finish under Fenlon.
Away boss John Coleman would have been happy to get his team into the dressing rooms at half time as the westerners finished out a lacklustre half. The Bit O'Red started with defender Evan McMillan up front to try and unsettle the Hoops back two but the lack of mobility killed the end product.
With the stern words of their respective managers ringing in their ears, both sides started the half with similar intensity to the first half. The Hoops possessed the momentum and looked far more agile in the final third as Sheppard and O'Connor threatened.
Fenlon introduced duo Ronan Finn and Ciaran Kilduff for the final half hour but the pair couldn't increase the lead with the Sligo defence growing in confidence.
Both of these sides came into the fixture with the hope of finishing the season in a European spot, especially Shamrock Rovers, who are eager to appease the fans.
The tension around the stadium wasn’t helped by the football as Shamrock Rovers couldn’t finish off the game as the final whistle grew closer.
Finn breached the Sligo defence, beating Davoren after a nice ball from Simon Madden, but his tired team mates couldn’t muster up a shot.
They were nearly left regretting that piece of play as Sligo won themselves a free on the right hand side after Bayly fouled Cretaro.
The opportunity came to nothing and Shamrock Rovers cleared the danger.
The visitors had a penalty shout late on when Sligo sub Ruairi Keating felt he had been pushed in the box but referee Tomas Connolly waved away his protests with the home support breathing a sigh of relief.
Shamrock Rovers held on to dig themselves out of the trenches to secure the three points.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, Jason McGuinness, Luke Byrne; Robert Bayly; Kieran Marty Waters (Ciarán Kilduff, 62), Stephen McPhail, Patrick Cregg (Ronan Finn 69), Sean O’Connor (Shane Robinson 80); Karl Sheppard.
Subs not used: Craig Hyland (gk), Rob Cornwall, Shane Robinson, Ronan Finn.
Booked: Bayly (90)
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Paul O'Conor, Gavin Peers, Kalen Spillane, Iarhflaith Davoren; Sean Maguire, David Cawley, Danny North (Ruairi Keating, 77), John Russell (Raffaele Cretaro, 77), Seamus Connelly; Evan McMillan.
Subs not used: Richard Brush (gk), Regan Donelon, Gary Armstrong, Ryan McManus.
Booked: Keating (90 +3), Spillane (85), Peers (69), O'Conor (20), Davoren (18)
Referee: Tomas Connolly
Attendance: 1,800 (estimate)