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Shamrock Rovers extend lead to ten points with back-to-back derby victories

St Patrick’s Athletic 1, Shamrock Rovers 2

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Aaron Greene of Shamrock Rovers shoots to score his side's first goal against St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park. Photo: George Tewkesbury/Sportsfile

Aaron Greene of Shamrock Rovers shoots to score his side's first goal against St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park. Photo: George Tewkesbury/Sportsfile

Aaron Greene of Shamrock Rovers shoots to score his side's first goal against St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park. Photo: George Tewkesbury/Sportsfile

With ominous intent, Stephen Bradley’s Shamrock Rovers extended their gap at the top of the table to ten points to put their recent hiccups in Louth behind them.

Away defeats at the hands of Drogheda and closest pursuers Dundalk hinted at an unexpected level of vulnerability. The response has been clinical and professional with back-to-back derby wins that followed a pattern.

Similar to Friday’s victory over Bohemians in Tallaght, Bradley’s charges overcame first-half difficulties to make the breakthrough after the restart and then close out the result reasonably efficiently, although an injury-time Eoin Doyle penalty to halve a two-goal deficit meant there were a few nervous seconds before the whistle.

But Rovers had seized this game by the scruff of the neck when it really mattered, and that’s a predictable theme. That said, the sight of veteran attacker Aaron Greene nutmegging his way through a static Saints rearguard before smashing home what proved to be the decisive goal was an unexpected plot twist.

This was close to a sell-out despite some Inchicore rumblings over middling form, with Friday night’s concession of two late goals in Donegal souring the weekend for Tim Clancy and his squad. He took solace from the fact that they had played very well for 88 minutes, even if they only ended up coming away with a point for their efforts, and his side did perform strongly before the interval against the champions.

They caused Rovers problems in a few departments, especially on the Saints left side where Mark Doyle pressed high to leave visiting wing-back Seán Gannon and right centre-half Seán Hoare in a bit of a dispute over who should take ownership.

With Billy King advanced in a central position supporting Doyle, the locals were finding spaces in attacking areas. King fired over their best chance following a slick Chris Forrester pass and there were half chances where the final ball was lacking.

But Rovers had their moments too, with Joseph Anang’s blushes spared when his fumble of an audacious Roberto Lopes flick culminated with the ball trickling just wide of the post.

With Danny Mandroiu joining Jack Byrne and Richie Towell on the list of absentees, Bradley was down a few bodies in the midfield department. He sent out an experienced team with six players aged 30 or over in the starting XI and they had decent spells while lacking a real creative spark with the respective goalkeepers well enough protected.

Dylan Watts can provide that for Bradley’s side and his through ball for Andy Lyons before the hour mark looked certain to deliver an opener but the covering Jack Scott made a superbly timed intervention as the Ireland U-21 international dithered.

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The Saints’ Irish U-21 star Darragh Burns, who was being watched here by MK Dons boss Liam Manning, twice threatened at the other end with enough activity at both ends to suggest a scoreless draw was unlikely.

Rovers duly took the initiative in the way that league winners do. Lyons has grasped the winning habit and made up for his earlier hesitancy by firing home after Pat’s made it far too easy for Greene to send the ball across the box. 

Ten minutes later, Greene appeared to have put the result beyond doubt, his emphatic finish draining the life from the majority of the stadium.

Sub Tunde Owolabi gave them fresh energy, with Rovers ringing the changes in an attempt to see the game out but Lee Grace had already made a fine goalline clearance to deny the newcomer before the ex-Finn Harps man won a penalty kick.

Doyle converted, but there would be no two-goal comeback in this Saints fixture, with last year’s runners-up now 16 points behind their southside rivals, the margin that separated them at the end of 2021.

St Patrick’s Athletic – Anang, Scott, Redmond, Grivosti, Breslin; Forrester, O’Reilly; Burns (Owolabi 81), King, M Doyle (McCormack 78); E Doyle.

Shamrock Rovers – Mannus, Hoare, Lopes, Grace; Gannon (Finn 73), McCann (Cotter 78), O’Neill, Lyons; Watts (Ferizaj 84), Gaffney (Emakhu 73); Greene (Burke 78).

Ref – Rob Hennessy.


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