Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers moved a dozen points clear of third placed Bohemians at Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday evening with a 2-1 win over Waterford ahead of Friday’s Dublin Derby against the Gypsies. Graham Burke proved the match winner getting his first goal on his return to Rovers after the first half ended 1-1.
Waterford with the orchestrators of their own misfortune as Rob Slevin’s sloppy backpass gave Rovers their first goal and after Dean O’Halloran had equalised the Blues had Karolis Chvedukas sent off in first half injury time and that inevitably had a huge influence on the outcome of the game.
Stephen Bradley had handed first team debuts in his Hoops side to 19-year-old defender Sean Callan and to former Northern Ireland international to Danny Lafferty. Callan came in as part of a back three with Ethan Boyle and Laffety in the wing back positions as Jack Byrne was omitted for only the second time this season – the last occasion coming when he was in the Republic of Ireland senior squad last March.
Lafferty did well on debut particularly for a player who must be behind with his fitness having only returned from the UK off season earlier this month. He was involved in winning Rovers a couple of early corners and his left foot delivery had to be dealt with well by Waterford when they were called upon.
The Blues pressed Rovers hard and just before the midway point, the pressure almost undid the Hoops. Dylan Watts dallied on the ball in midfield and O’Halloran picked his pocket. His charging run was only halted by Greg Bolger who went in Derek Tomney’s book for the tackle.
Kevin Lynch took the resulting free kick but he couldn't match the one he scored from back in February when he scored a screamer of a set peice against Rovers in the RSC.
Inexplicably Waterford handed the Hoops the opener on 36 minutes. Slevin took Maxim Kougan's pass and without looking played it back towards 'keeper Matthew Connor but Graham Cummins had anticpated the possible error and was in position punish the Blues slotting it home past Connor.
The lead lasted only five minutes though as Chvedukas was fouled wide right. JJ Lunney whipped a beautiful ball right onto O'Halloran's head and his touch took it by Alan Mannus for the equaliser.
In the third minute of injury time though Chvedukas had his last contribution of the match on the pitch as his late sliding tackle on Lafferty as he was breaking on the left didn’t go down well with referee Tomney who produced a straight red card for the Lithuanian.
Bradley, mabye with one eye on the Dublin derby against Bohs on Friday, brought on Byrne along with Aaron McEneff at half time removing Cummins and Greg Bolger who had picked up that earlier booking. Byrne’s creativity increased the urgency for Rovers, helped of course by the man advantage.
Burke turned home Lafferty’s cross from the left six minutes into the second half to restore Rovers’ lead and just moments later he rattled one off the post with Connor beaten.
Byrne went close with an effort 20 minutes from time when he spun substitute Walter Figueira on the edge of the box but on the turn his effort just cleared the bar. The Blues defended deep hoping to stay in the game and Rovers saw much of the ball come to Boyle out wide right but his centres never fell for Hoops to fully exploit.
Long range efforts from Watts and Greene along with two close range effort from Greene off balls by substitute Sean Kavanagh were the closest Rovers came to adding a third.
Deep in injury time Rovers still required a last ditch tackle to secure the win. Zack Elbouzedi's shot was too hot too handle and as it fell to Figueira on the edge of the six yard box to slot home Grace slid in to save the day for Rovers.
It was all enough for the home team to get the win and move back to within four points of league leaders Dundalk who have two games in hand over the Hoops.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Callan, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes ©; Ethan Boyle, Greg Bolger (Aaron McEneff h/t), Dylan Watts, Danny Lafferty (Sean Kavanagh 74); Graham Burke; Aaron Greene, Graham Cummins (Jack Byrne h/t).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Gary O'Neill, Brandon Kavanagh, Thomas Oluwa.
Booked: Greg Bolger (19), Danny Lafferty (73).
Waterford: Matthew Connor; John Kavanagh, Robert Slevin, Maxi Kouogun, Kevin Lynch ©; Georgie Poynton, Karolis Chvedukas, Tom Holland (Zack Elbouzedi 78); JJ Lunney, William Fitzgerald (Sam Bone h/t), Dean O’Halloran (Walter Figueira 69).
Subs not used: Paul Martin (gk), Shane Duggan, Cory Galvin, Michael O'Connor.
Booked: Kevin Lynch (90).
Sent off: Karolis Chvedukas (45+3).
Referee: Derek Tomney
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Danny Lafferty (Shamrock Rovers).