The 2-1 victory for Shamrock Rovers over bottom of the league Longford Town in Tallaght Stadium kept the Hoops unbeaten during Stephen Bradley’s four match managerial reign. The venue had seen Dundalk’s remarkable Champions League qualifier win earlier in the week and Rovers’ victory, thanks to goals from Brandon Miele and Sean Heaney, at least keeps the Hoops in the hunt to bring European football to the stadium for themselves again next season.
The loss for Tony Cousins’ men mean they still have just one league win for the season, with next week’s game away to Wexford Youths now being even more crucial in their efforts to remain in the top flight.
The only surprising thing about the opening 45 minutes was that the teams were level at the break. The home side dominated the first half but could only score once with that pressure before conceding an equaliser three minutes before the break.
Both teams went with two up top but Stephen Bradley lined up his Rovers defence with three at the back as he made four changes to the team that drew 1-1 last week in Bray. David Webster came in to play with Sean Heaney and Rob Cornwall in defence.
18 year old Trevor Clarke started only his second league game for Rovers and his trickery down the left caused the Town defence difficulty throughout the game.
The Hoops started strongly winning four corners in the first five minutes with both captain Stephen McPhail and Heaney getting shots away on the Longford goal.
By the time the Tallaght clock ticked to ten minutes, the Hoops had squandered two great chances. First Brandon Miele was wasteful when he flashed at a Sean Boyd cross and then Shaw’s touch freed up Boyd for a shot on target but he couldn’t beat Ryan Coulter in the Town goal.
Kaleem Simon at the other end kept the Rovers back three on their toes on a handful of occasions. He forced Webster into conceding a corner when the Rovers defender also had a handful of the midfielder jersey. David O’Sullivan then forced an error off Rob Cornwall which allowed Simon get another shot away.
Rovers stepped it up after these warnings with McPhail orchestrating their play across the middle. The opening goal had been coming for quite some time and just a minute before the half hour mark Miele put the Hoops 1-0 up. He latched onto an excellent long ball over the top by Heaney on the left to race in on goal and dispatch the ball low into the corner of the net passed Coulter.
In the five minutes prior to the goal, Rovers had twice gone close. A Shaw header on to Trevor Clarke saw the winger force another save from Coulter before Boyd flicked a pass to Shaw whose shot from a tight angle was saved.
Three minutes from the break though, Longford got themselves level after David O’Sullivan slotted home with his right boot after Eddie Dsane had slipped him through on goal.
The second half was a much tamer affair with few clear cut chances. The one that did fall to Rovers was put away as Heaney headed the Hoops back into a just before the hour mark. Noel Haverty had deflected a Trevor Clarke cross for a corner and Heaney’s run was excellently timed to meet Miele’s set piece.
A Miele foul on the edge of the Rovers box allowed Eddie Dsane whip a free kick over the Rovers wall but Craig Hyland was well placed to gather.
When Boyd was replaced with 20 minutes to go Dean Clarke came on and played up top with Shaw. Rovers reverted to four at the back when Gavin Brennan came on as they closed out the game. With Derry City drawing at home to St. Patrick’s Athletic, the Hoops moved within three points of third placed Derry and have two games in hand on the Candystripes.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Dave Webster, Rob Cornwall, Sean Heaney; Simon Madden, Pat Cregg, Stephen McPhail © (Gary McCabe 65), Brandon Miele, Trevor Clarke (Gavin Brennan 73); Sean Boyd (Dean Clarke 70), Gary Shaw.
Subs not used: Barry Murphy (gk), David O’Connor, Shane Hanney, Jamie Aherne.
Longford Town: Ryan Coulter; Noel Haverty, Yann Mvita Nkelu, Rhys Gorman, Conor Powell; Kaleem Simon, Mark Hughes (Gaius Makouta 76), Phillip Gannon, Peter McGlynn (Lee Duffy 76); Eddie Dsane, David O’Sullivan.
Subs not used: Paul Skinner, Pat Flynn, Jamie Mulhall, Tristan Noack Hofmann, Karl Chambers.
Bookings: Eddie Dsane (53).
Referee: Tomás Connolly.
Attendance: 1,200 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Sean Heaney (Shamrock Rovers).