Shamrock Rovers close in on Premier title as First Division hots up

The biggest game of the weekend was at Tallaght Stadium. A win for Bohemians over their city rivals Rovers would have seen Stephen Bradley’s side lose their hold on top spot for the first time this season.

Rovers though are now five points clear at the top of the table and always looked comfortable following Danny Lafferty’s lucky fourth minute strike.

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The game’s decisive moment came when Graham Burke cut in from the right before whipped an inswinging ball towards goal which Jack Byrne dummied, thus forcing Stephen McGuinness into a save. The ball fell to Andy Lyons, who wasn’t fully aware of his surroundings before attempting a lackadaisical clearance. Lafferty needed no bigger invitation and cushioned the ball home.

For the majority of the rest of the game Rovers dominated but didn’t work many clear openings.

The introduction of Danny Mandroiu for Bohs definitely upped The Gypsies attacking tempo late on. His fantastic free-kick should have delivered the equaliser some ten minutes from time but James Finnerty couldn’t guide his back-post header into the net.

Dinny Corcoran also had a great chance to equalize at the death but blasted over from about 12 yards out.

Rovers were good value for the win overall though and our now long odds-on favourites to win the title.

Having been in the relegation zone in mid-August, Sligo Rovers are now in third place in the Premier Division table having reeled off four straight wins.

The latest of which came with a comfortable 3-1 win over relegation threatened Finn Harps at the Showgrounds.

The visitors had just levelled the game at 1-1, Mark Russell’s 59th minute effort cancelling out Ryan de Vries’ eighth minute opener, but things went wrong for Ollie Horgan and his charges after that.

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Midfielder Mark Coyle was then sent off for a second yellow card on the hour for taking down Junior at the edge of the area. Horgan was then sent to the stands shortly afterwards for remonstrating with an official.

Sligo made the extra man count from there, Ronan Murray blasting home as advantage was being played for a foul on DeVries.

The scoring was completed by Ronan Coughlan’s 85th minute spot-kick after Kosovar Sadiki was red carded also for a second yellow for taking Coughlan down.

Waterford proved much too good for St. Patrick’s Athletic. The Blues won 3-0 to move up to fifth in the table and are now very much in contention to finish ahead of Dundalk in the race for European football next season.

Having wasted some early chances themselves, Pat’s gifted John Sheridan’s side the lead on 24 minutes. Robert Weir dropped deep to pick up the ball and sent it over the top. One of Shane Griffin or Lee Desmond should have cleared the ball. However neither did, allowing Ali Coote to nip in ahead of them and Brendan Clarke to tap the ball to the net.

The visitors were made regret their poor finishing when they went 2-0 down on the half hour mark. John Martin was on hand to stab the ball to the net inside the six-yard box after O’Connor headed Wilson’s deep corner towards goal.

Ten minutes from time Michael O’Connor wrapped up the win. Substitute Dean Walsh sent Matty Smith free on the left and his low cross was netted by O’Connor to wrap up the Waterford win.

The win was Waterford’s fourth in five games over the Saints and Pat’s are looking over their shoulders to the relegation zone now.

Elsewhere Dayle Rooney bagged a very early goal for Shelbourne, who looked set to record their first league victory at Tolka Park since the restart before Deshane Dalling bagged a strange equaliser for Cork City 15 minutes from time.

There were only two minutes on the clock when Seán Quinn intercepted a poor Mark McNulty clearance and fed Ciarán Kilduff on the endline. The ex-Cork City man sent over an inviting cross for the arriving Rooney, who glanced home a header from a few yards out.

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McNulty made up for his early error with some great saves and City forced the equalizer when an attempted cross from Dalling was misjudged by Colin McCabe in the home goal and looped into the top corner of the Reds net.

Shelbourne will feel disappointed not to have won the game and they have lost ground in the chase for a European place while the point for Neale Fenn’s men could prove important in the fight against relegation.

The race for promotion from the First Division meanwhile is extremely tight. Cabinteely fell from first to fourth following a 5-1 drubbing at Drogheda United who go top of the table on goal difference.

Cabinteely actually took the lead on the night through Paul Fox inside the opening ten minutes. A brace of goals apiece from Jake Hyland and Mark Doyle before the midpoint of the second-half and a last minute goal from Stephen Meaney wrapped up a big win for Drogs.

Elsewhere, Bray Wanderers moved level at the top in the race for automatic promotion with a 3-1 win over basement side Athlone Town who remain winless this season. Town took the lead against the run of play on 19 minutes but were pegged back quickly and a two goal win was the least Bray deserved.

The story of the First Division week has to be Cobh Ramblers who recorded two wins from two in the space of three days. The Rams won 0-1 in Drogheda and 0-1 at Shamrock Rovers II.

Stuart Ashton’s side are now on 17 points, level with UCD in the final promotion play-off place and both are just three points off the top of the table and the automatic promotion place.

As it stands it looks like the promotion/play-off places will be decided between Drogheda, Bray, Longford, Cabinteely, UCD and Cobh with the rest of the division cut adrift.

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