Duff on Hoops bench as North brace wraps up the spoils
Longford Town 1 Shamrock Rovers 3
Damien Duff was named on the Shamrock Rovers bench at the City Calling Stadium last night, but it was Danny North who did the damage, striking twice to sink Longford.
Ahead of his official unveiling at a press conference today, Duff caused a stir among the crowd when he went through a long warm-up routine on the sidelines, but manager Pat Fenlon opted not to bring him on.
The 100-times capped winger is now likely to make his Rovers' debut in Monday's televised clash with Cork City at Tallaght Stadium.
Rovers started brightly and were 2-0 to the good inside 13 minutes.
Mikey Drennan sent them on their after only three minutes. He tapped home the rebound after Paul Hunt had parried his penalty, which was somewhat harshly awarded for Martin Deady's challenge on Gavin Brennan.
Poor defending by Longford then gifted Rovers their second goal 10 minutes later.
North took the ball around Hunt before showing excellent composure to calmly shoot home, despite the presence of a defender.
Longford battled back to reduce the deficit on 26 minutes.
Pat Sullivan's corner was only partially cleared. A shot from Kevin O'Connor then pinballed around the box, before Lorcan Shannon forced it home at the post.
Stephen Rice should then have equalised for Longford, but shot straight at Barry Murphy from Gary Shaw's flick.
In an open game, Rovers' Gary McCabe blasted wide on 36 minutes, before Longford finished the half strongly.
Ayman Ben Mohamed's overhead kick from Sullivan's long throw was saved by Murphy, before the Rovers' 'keeper saved with his feet from Shannon in a goalmouth scramble.
Though Longford pressed hard for an equaliser on the resumption, they fell two goals behind again to a wonderful Rovers' counterattack on 58 minutes.
Drennan threaded a delightful through-pass for the run of North, who confidently slipped the ball past Hunt.
So, the attention turns to Duff's date with t he will do better he media this afternoon and then to Monday's fixtures which could have a big say in the destination of the title, with Cork facing what looks like a must-win game against Rovers and Dundalk taking on third-placed St Pat's at Oriel Park.
Longford Town - Hunt; Sullivan, Gorman, Powell, Deady; Shannon (Cowan 67), O'Connor, Gannon (O'Sullivan 67), Ben Mohamed (Simon 76); Rice;, Shaw.
Shamrock Rovers - Murphy; Madden, Kenna, Webster, Byrne; G. Brennan, McCabe, Blanchard, Miele; North (McCaffrey, 81), Drennan.
Ref - Neil Doyle (Dublin).