Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO Rovers’ Daniel Mandroiu and Daniel Lafferty of Derry.
# Nearly there
Shamrock Rovers maintain nine-point lead at the top after hard-fought win over Derry City
The Hoops were 2-1 winners in front of a boisterous crowd of 4,000 at Tallaght Stadium.

Shamrock Rovers 2

Derry City 1

Darryl Geraghty reports from Tallaght Stadium

SHAMROCK ROVERS MAINTAINED their nine-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League with a hard-fought 2-1 home victory in front of a boisterous crowd of 4,000 at a chilly Tallaght Stadium.

Naming an unchanged side victorious last time out at St Patricks Athletic, Stephen Bradley’s men started brightly. Rory Gaffney had an effort well blocked, after being picked out by Danny Madroiu in the area, with Dylan Watts going close with the rebound, smashing over from distance.

But with just three points between themselves and Sligo Rovers prior to kick-off in the race for European football — almost unthinkable given their slow start to the season — in-form Derry City grabbed the lead after just five minutes. Jack Malone’s beautifully flighted free kick from the left wing was met by Danny Lafferty, who guided home against his former side.

The champions responded well, going close on a number of occasions, and possibly should have equalised just minutes later when Richie Towell’s curling effort was parried away by Nathan Gartside. The ball fell invitingly to Dylan Watts, but got his left-footed finish all wrong.

Lee Grace then had a deflected volley miss the post by inches, Gartside left scrambling, and from the resulting corner, Roberto Lopes saw his header sail wide of the far post.

The Hoops’ pressure finally told when Grace was on hand to power home a header from Ronan Finn’s whipped cross from the right wing.

Following the fast and furious start to the high-quality encounter, the game began to settle into a lull, as both sets of players caught their breaths. But right before the half-time break, the hosts turned it up a notch. Danny Mandriou was on hand to apply a well taken-finish from the edge of the area, and give his side the lead following a slick passing move on the left wing.

With their last league defeat coming at the hands of tonight’s hosts, way back in July, Derry City showed no signs of heads dropping following the late concession in the first half and really should have gotten back on level terms five minutes after the restart. Goalscorer Lafferty found himself unmarked in the area from a corner but somehow skewed his header wide from six yards out.

Despite having less of the ball in the opening exchanges of the second half, the Hoops just had that bit of quality to turn up the pressure when needed. Just after the hour-mark, the hard working Rory Gaffney forced Gartside into a sharp save from a downward header, and Dylan Watts again went close with a strike from the edge of the area.

Long-range efforts from Watts and Towell went close to extending their lead in a second half of little action, as Rovers saw out the game in relative comfort, securing a massive three points in their bid to retain the title. Substitutes Aaron Greene and Aidomo Emakhu caused problems and occupied the Derry rearguard as the minutes ticked on, and referee Paul McLaughlin eventually blew the final whistle.

Ruaidhri Higgins’ troops face a tricky looking away tie next, travelling to the RSC to face a Waterford side battling to pull away from the dreaded relegation play-off spot, whilst the Hoops travel up the M1 to a resurgent Dundalk at Oriel Park, who themselves, harbour the same aspirations as Marc Bircham’s men.

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Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Sean Gannon, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Barry Cotter (Neil Farrugia,79’), Dylan Watts (Aaron Greene, 71’), Ronan Finn (c), Danny Mandroiu (Chris McCann, 79’), Gary O’Neill, Richie Towell, Rory Gaffney (Aidomo Emakhu, 84’)

Derry City: Nathan Gartside, Ciaron Harkin, Eoin Toal (c) , Jamie McGonigle, James Akintunde, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, Ronan Boyce, Cameron McJannett,
Bastien Hery (Evan McLaughlin, 66’), Danny Lafferty, Jack Malone (William Fitzgerald, 76’)

Referee: Paul McLoughlin.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey chat all things URC and Ireland Women on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

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