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Sam McKeever reports from Tallaght Stadium
Vinny Perth's Dundalk picked up another vital win as a solitary Sean Gannon goal moved the Lilywhites eight points clear of second placed Shamrock Rovers after a tight affair at Tallaght Stadium.
The Hoops came flying out of the traps and had the first real shot on goal early on as Jack Byrne turned and shot with his left foot which just went past Gary Rogers left hand post.
Midfielder Dylan Watts then played a fantastic ball from the left with his right foot towards Dan Carr. The forward, who lead the line for Stephen Bradley’s side as Aaron Greene who dropped to the bench, almost got to the ball before a Dundalk defender got a vital touch to the ball to divert it away for a corner.
In a game which both sides were tentative to do much on the attacking front, it was Rovers who put the first decent move together. It was good feet by Byrne which enabled him to break away from Chris Shields before Byrne passed it off to Trevor Clarke. He burst past Sean Gannon before Clarke’s ball was cleared away by Brian Gartland.
Carr was putting himself about and his run down the left was found by Clarke and he played a fantastic low cross to the back post for Ronan Finn. The Rovers captain latched onto the ball with the former Dundalk man’s shot diverted away by Gannon as he slid to divert it away for a corner.
Byrne was having an major influence on the Rovers attack in the first half and was involved with the majority of their play. He was unlucky not to put the Hoops ahead as his cracking left foot effort smashed off Gary Rogers’ crossbar and back out to the relief of the Dundalk defence.
Five minutes into the second half and it was Carr who had the first effort on goal of the second period as he cut inside onto his right foot off a Byrne pass but the Rovers’ striker’s effort was tame and Rogers caught it was ease.
The Lilywhites stepped their game up as their passing and movement became a lot quicker and they had a decent effort of their own as a bouncing ball in the box found the feet of Pat Hoban but his powerful effort charged down by Joey O’Brien.
On the hour mark Clarke broke away from the Dundalk defence forcing Rogers to come out of his box and commit a cynical foul on the Rovers full-back. Referee Rob Harvey produced only a yellow to the disbelief on the Rovers supporters who thought it was a certain red as the ‘keeper was the last man in defence.
In a very poor game in terms of chances, it was Dundalk who broke the deadlock with 17 minutes to go. Substitute Jamie McGrath found Gannon in the box who lost his man before his low effort squeezed under the body of Alan Mannus.
The goal gave the Lillywhites a vital lead in the game, sending the Dundalk supporters into raptures in the East Stand of the ground.
With Rovers pressing for an equaliser, the Lillywhites broke away with ten minutes to go. Hoban had plenty of space 25 yards out before hit a good shot which was well saved by Mannus when the striker should have possibly played the ball out wide to Michael Duffy instead of hitting the shot.
Rovers substitute Aaron Greene almost had Stephen Bradley’s men level as good play on the edge of the box between Brandon Kavanagh and Greene put the former Bray Wanderers man through on goal.
However his sliding effort for the Hoops was agonisingly just wide of Rogers’ post when it looked certain of going into the bottom corner.
Dundalk held out in the end for their eigth competitive win in and row and extended their lead to eight points over Shamrock Rovers at the top of the table with 14 league games remaining after a nail-biting affair throughout the 90 minutes.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Trevor Clarke;, Greg Bolger Dylan Watts (Brandon Kavanagh 77), Jack Byrne, Ronan Finn, Sean Kavanagh; Dan Carr (Aaron Greene 72)
Subs not Used: Leon Pohls, Ethan Boyle, Orhan Vojic, Joel Coustrain, Thomas Oluwa
Booked: Trevor Clarke (12), Jack Byrne (25)
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Chris Shields; Michael Duffy, John Moutney (Robbie Benson 79), Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly 86); Patrick McEleney, Dane Massey, Sean Murray (Jamie McGrath 64)
Subs not Used: Aaron McCarey, Cameron Dummican, Daniel Kelly, Dylan Hand
Booked: John Moutney (20), Gary Rogers (62), Chris Shields (70)
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match:Sean Gannon (Dundalk)