SHAMROCK Rovers cruised through to the semi-finals of the Setanta Sports Cup following a win over Linfield last night, but the game was darkened by anti-social behaviour on the terraces.
With a 4-1 victory from the first leg, Rovers were in the driving seat, but during the first half, the game was secondary to the antagonistic exchanges between both sets of fans.
It started when two flares were thrown from the away stand, briefly pausing play. Seats were then ripped up and hurled pitch-side, before the riot police intervened, forcibly removing Rovers fans from the part of the stand they had moved to, closest to Linfield supporters.
By half-time, the visiting Rovers fans had been fenced in at the opposite end, with a reduced PSNI presence keeping watch.
Rovers started brightly, even with their aggregate advantage, but Linfield looked to try and recover some pride after their mauling in Tallaght.
Former Linfield ace Tommy Stewart was keen to show his former club how far he's come with a brace against them, the first of which was a screamer and one he'll be unlikely to forget.
A third from substitute Billy Dennehy summarised an attacking and entertaining game.
David Armstrong put Linfield back into the contest when he opened the scoring on 25 minutes.
Stewart's superb finish came on 32 minutes, after he capitalised on poor passing from Niall Quinn, and put the ball into the roof of the net.
Despite having a three-goal advantage, Rovers came out of the blocks early on. Karl Sheppard keenly created chances while Stewart showed his eagerness.
Striker Peter Thompson nearly opened the scoring for Linfield on 24 minutes, but his header was wide of the far post. A minute later Armstrong grabbed the opener. Initially flicked on by Philip Lowry, Armstrong followed up from two yards out, heading in behind Barry Murphy.
While the police attempted to contain the antagonistic behaviour in the stands, the game really broke out when Stewart took advantage of Quinn's poor pass. He poked it through Armstrong's legs and shot perfectly from over 20 yards.
Dennehy got the best of keeper Ross Glendinning 10 minutes before normal time when his shot from 20 yards slipped under him.
LINFIELD – Glendinning, Burns, Douglas, Armstrong, Quinn, Lowry, Gault, Mulgrew, McCaul, Carvill, Thompson.
SHAMROCK ROVERS – Murphy, McCormack, Ledwith, McGuinness, Foran, Chambers (Finn, 62), Robinson, Rice, O'Connor (Dennehy, 56), Sheppard (McCabe, 74), Stewart.
REF – M Smyth