Sam McKeever reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers kept their ten point lead at the top of table as they beat Waterford 2-1 at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
Their seventh successive win in the league was earned thanks to goals in either half by Sean Kavanagh and Roberto 'Pico' Lopes with Aaron Drinan getting a late consolation for the Blues with the last kick of the game.
It was Alan Reynolds’ side who had the first decent chance which came to them on five minutes. Waterford countered from a Rovers corner and a good pass from JJ Lunney found the run of Zak Elbouzedi on the right hand side.
Playing in front of his Ireland under-21 manager Stephen Kenny who was an interested spectator, Elbouzedi’s effort was wasteful from close range as he put it over the bar.
Three minutes later and Waterford had a decent effort from a set piece. A weak Rovers clearance found Bastien Hery on the edge of the box but the Frenchman’s effort for the Blues sailied over the frame of the goal.
A low cross from Rovers’ Captain Ronan Finn almost put the Hoops ahead as former Crystal Palace man Damian Delaney miss-hit his clearance diverting it just past the post.
On 27 minutes Rovers took the lead. Good work between Greene and Clarke put the left back down the left before Clarke pulled it back to Kavanagh who was at the near post. The former Fulham man hit his shot across goal leaving Matthew Connor stranded for his second goal in a week.
Jack Byrne was influential throughout and his lovely scoop pass found Greene on the right who played a fantastic cross to the back post for Clarke who did not react quick enough to finish.
Stephen Bradley’s men should have been two up six minutes before half-time. Aaron McEneff’s back heel found Finn in space inside the box and his driven low cross found Greene who could not finish from close range as Rory Feely cleared it off the line.
There was nothing much to shout about in the second half until just after the hour mark. A run down the left by Clarke ended with a fantastic cross which found Finn at the front post. His powerful header was excellently saved by Matthew Connor.
Byrne played a lovely threaded pass which found Joey O’Brien in the box. His pull back caused havoc in the Waterford ranks but they eventually cleared for a corner.
From the resulting set piece Rovers got their second. A Byrne corner found Roberto Lopes who headed home for his second of the season giving the Hoops breathing space in the process.
Waterford were struggling to create in the second half and had their first real shot with a quarter of an hour to go as Elbouzedi cut inside from the right before trying to curl his effort into the top corner just going past the post.
Alan Reynolds’ side did pull a goal back late on as substitute Ismahil Akinade's run down the left hand side gave him space to put in a low cross. Drinan toe poked home at the front post into the roof of the net which was the final action of the game.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Dylan Watts(Joel Coustrain 68), Ronan Finn; Aaron McEneff, Sean Kavanagh, Trevor Clarke, Aaron Greene(Orhan Vojic 79); Joey O’Brien, Jack Byrne (Brandon Kavanagh 85)
Subs not Used: Leon Pohls, James Furlong, Dean Dillion, Greg Bolger.
Waterford: Matthew Connor; Maxim Kouogan, Aaron Drinan, Jonathan Lunney, Bastien Hery(Akinade 68); Kevin Lynch, Damien Delaney, Rory Feely(Georgie Poynton 85); Zak Elbouzedi, Karolis Chevdukas(Cory Galvin 67), Shane Duggan
Subs not Used: Dean Walsh, Aaron Simpson, Scott Twine, Hugo Keto
Booked: Karolis Chevedukas (57)
Referee: Robert Hennessey
Man of the Match: Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)