Shamrock Rovers show the form of champions-elect in Waterford win
Shamrock Rovers 2 Waterford 1
Who needs a free-scoring centre forward when you can get goals from all areas of the park?
Shamrock Rovers are living proof that they can sustain a title tilt without a reliance on one man, as midfielder Sean Kavanagh and defender Roberto Lopes delivered the goals to earn a 2-1 win at home to Waterford, Rovers looking more and more like champions-elect with each passing week.
There were rumblings in pre-season about the lack of front men in Stephen Bradley's squad, and the main striker in the Rovers panel, Aaron Greene, has indeed scored just twice in 10 appearances this season.
But manager Bradley has enjoyed being able to poke fun at those who wondered about the balance of his squad as the midfield and defence have delivered time and again, and a 2-1 scoreline last night does not justify how much in control the home side were, Alan Mannus in the Hoops goal a passenger until Aaron Drinan nicked an injury time consolation goal.
The win aside it was a very good night for Rovers as the side most likely to challenge them, Dundalk, lost for the second game in a row, that 13-point gap between the sides already looking like a chasm that cannot be bridged by the under-pressure champions.
Waterford had managed to take points off Rovers last season, but they came to Tallaght Stadium with a big of baggage, a heavy beating, 4-1 by UCD, on their previous trip to Dublin only a week earlier.
The Blues have been erratic this season while the Hoops have been blemish-free in recent weeks and that was the story of the game, Rovers in control from early on in front of a crowd of 2,821.
Waterford did actually have some possession, and potentially some good moments early on, a shot on three minutes from Zak Elbouzedi and another effort four minutes later from Bastien Hery, but both efforts were well wide.
Rovers never looked like they were about to panic or lose their cool, content with gentle prodding from midfield for their chance to come while Waterford looked nervous. A slip in possession, in the box, by Damien Delaney as he tried to clear a Ronan Finn cross led to a corner for the home side but nothing came of it.
But Rovers grew into things, a note of intent when Blues defender Maxi Kouogun had to clear when Aaron Greene was in a dangerous area on 23 minutes.
And it took just 26 minutes for the breach to come. Some clever play on the left allowed Trevor Clarke send in a cross and left winger Sean Kavanagh had time to compose himself and send a shot past Matt Connor, the second league goal of the season from Kavanagh.
With Jack Byrne's trickery on the ball Rovers were a constant threat and only for Kougoun's efforts, Rovers would have scored again on 39 minutes, a Finn ball setting up Greene but former UCD man Kouogun cleared off the line.
Rovers owned the ball for long spells as Waterford could just got get any relief, Finn going close with an effort on 60 minutes which needed a save from Connor, who was beaten again on 67 minutes, Lopes with a header from Byrne's corner, apart from a successful header by striker Drinan in injury time, the Blues offered no threat.
Tests against the other sides in the top three (Derry City, Bohemians and Dundalk) are next up for Rovers: win those and that title will come even closer into view.
S ROVERS – Mannus; O'Brien, Grace, Lopes, Clarke; Watts (Coustrain 68), McEneff; Byrne (B Kavanagh 86), Finn, S Kavanagh; Greene (Vojic 79).
WATERFORD: Connor; Feely (Poynton 85), Kougoun, Delaney, Lynch; Hery (Akinade 67), Duggan; Chvedukas (Galvin 67), Lunney, Elbouzedi; Drinan.
REFEREE: Robert Hennessy