Shamrock Rovers overcome Longford's stubborn resistance
Shamrock Rovers 3 Longford 2
They made their supporters sweat for three quarters of last night’s encounter with Longford Town but Shamrock Rovers ensured that they kept in touch with league leaders Dundalk.
Max Blanchard was the Hoops’ hero as he popped up with two second half goals to pick a seventh win of the season that stretches their unbeaten run to 13 games.
The Hoops started well and opened the scoring through Gavin Brennan after six minutes but for the remainder of the half, they were lacklustre and lacked any real impetus.
Pat Flynn drew Town level but they were unable to withstand a barrage of second half pressure against a much-improved Rovers side.
The result might have been very different had Longford taken their first half chances while they were also denied what looked like a certain second half penalty – much to the frustration of Tony Cousins who was sent to the stand for his protestations.
Fenlon recalled Danny North for just his third start of the season but the striker was off the pace throughout.
Rovers started brightly and opened when they capitalised on some poor goalkeeping.
Paul Skinner in the Town goal parried Brandon Miele’s strike from outside the area and Brennan was quickest to react to score his first goal since signing from Drogheda at the start of the season.
The visitors showed signs of growing into the contest after a nervy start. Ayman Ben Mohamed and David O’Sullivan linked well but the striker’s shot was easily saved by Craig Hyland.
The Rovers ‘keeper was rooted to the spot after the half hour mark however when Flynn rose unchallenged to head home Mark Salmon’s corner.
Stephen Rice should have put Longford ahead two minutes later but he scuffed his shot from inside the area, wide of the post.
If that miss was poor, what was to follow was even worse. Gary Shaw did well initially to nick the ball off Blanchard and as he bore down, one-on-one with Hyland, he fired the ball wide just before the break.
Mikey Drennan, Pat Cregg, Keith Fahey and Brennan all went close to retaking the lead in a dominant four minute spell but it was left to one of Rovers’ centre halves to show them the route to goal.
Kieran Marty Waters 67th minute corner was poked home by the outstretched leg of Blanchard and five minutes later the pair repeated the trick.
Waters whipped in a free kick from wide on the right and the unmarked Blanchard nodded the ball into the net for as easy a goal as you’ll see all season.
In between his double, Blanchard looked to trip Shaw inside the area but the ref waved play away.
Substitute Kaleem Simon did pull one back for Longford to spark hopes of a comeback in the remaining seven minutes.
Rovers held firm though to ensure that the league’s draw specialists picked up a crucial three points.
SHAMROCK ROVERS – Hyland; Madden, Kenna (c), Blanchard, Byrne; Cregg, Fahey, Brennan, Miele (Waters 60); North (McCabe 76), Drennan (McCaffrey 90).
LONGFORD TOWN – Skinner; Sullivan, Flynn (Tyrell 73), Rossiter (Mulhall h/t), Deady; Salmon (c), O’Connor, Rice, Ben Mohamed; Shaw; O’Sullivan (Simon 67).
REF – D Tomney (Dublin)