herald

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Rovers hit the summit ahead of clash with Gypsies

Shamrock Rovers 2 Derry City 0

Dylan Watts celebrates opening the scoring for Shamrock Rovers
Dylan Watts celebrates opening the scoring for Shamrock Rovers

So far, so good for Shamrock Rovers as they make an early push for the title while their title rivals slip and slide.

Goals in each half by Dylan Watts and Aaron McEneff, coupled with a late red card for Derry substitute Jamie McDonagh, gave them a fully deserved victory in front of 4,552 fans at Tallaght.

Two games and six points into the 2019 season and their mishaps of previous years under Stephen Bradley's reign could be a distant memory.

Aaron Greene fashioned a couple of early chances, drawing Peter Cherrie into a save and having a goal disallowed for offside.

The goal they were threatening arrived on 28 minutes. Derry's suspect defence was exposed from Sean Kavanagh's left-wing cross, with Ally Gilchrist's weak header finished off by a low drive from Dylan Watts.

Derry settled early in the second half, holding their own in the midfield exchanges, yet they were unable to trouble Alan Mannus.

Indeed, Rovers should have doubled their lead through Kavanagh. The left-back, pushed up to the wing when Trevor Clarke was brought on, raided into the box to get a sight on goal, only for Cherrie's leg to deflect his effort around the post.

Former Derry player McEneff added the second with 12 minutes left.

Eoin Toal's handball in the box, after a low shot from Orhan Vojic, led to a penalty and the Foylesider deftly chipped his penalty down the middle.

McDonagh soon deepened the Derry woe by receiving a straight red for a needless lunge on Clarke.

A title defence which was meant to be a cakewalk for Dundalk is proving to be something of a struggle, the champions for a second week in a row needing to come from a goal down and settle for a point from a game they'd have seen as winnable.

A Brian Gartland goal on 71 minutes gave Dundalk an equaliser away to a Finn Harps side who were on course for a remarkable win, courtesy of a first-half goal from Keith Cowan.

Harps had failed to even score a goal, let alone get a positive result, in their last eight meetings with Dundalk, and the early stages of this game last night suggested more of the same as the champions owned the ball for most of the first half, early chances from Sean Murray and Michael Duffy giving bother to Harps keeper Peter Burke.

But very much against the run of play, Harps went in front four minutes before half-time, defender Cowan left unmarked and able to head home from Raff Cretaro's corner-kick.

Seconds later, Harps almost doubled the lead through debutant Sean Boyd. Dundalk struggled to carve out an opening against a Harps defence marshalled by Cowan and Sam Todd, and keeper Burke had little to do. But finally, on 71 minutes, they got the breakthrough, Duffy with the corner and Gartland powered home a header to equalise.

Gartland almost made it 2-1 six minutes later, another header from another Duffy set-piece but Harps still posed a threat, only a fine tackle in the box by Seán Hoare denying sub Niall McDonagh.

A point had to do for both sides, Harps off the bottom of the table but Dundalk already needing to make up lost ground.

Referee Robert Rogers and security staff had to separate the two camps after the final whistle as tempers flared with an on-field row involving players and staff from both sides.

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