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Three and easy: Watts-inspired win sends Rovers to top

Shamrock Rvs 3 Finn Harps 0

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OPENER: Roberto Lopes celebrates his goal with his Shamrock Rovers team-mates in last night’s win over Finn Harps. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

OPENER: Roberto Lopes celebrates his goal with his Shamrock Rovers team-mates in last night’s win over Finn Harps. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

OPENER: Roberto Lopes celebrates his goal with his Shamrock Rovers team-mates in last night’s win over Finn Harps. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Shamrock Rovers will, in the future, struggle to have an easier ascent to the top of the Premier Division table, after the Hoops swatted aside the challenge from newly-promoted Finn Harps last night.

The referee did, of course, play the full 90 minutes but he could easily have called for full-time after 45 minutes, Rovers already 3-0 ahead and only missing out on a bigger lead as man of the match Dylan Watts missed a penalty kick.

The win put Rovers top of the table, ahead of Bohemians on goal difference but with a game more played, and Stephen Bradley's side will no doubt face a much stiffer challenge on Friday night, away to St Patrick's Athletic.

It must be said, however, that the timing of the game was deeply unfair to the opposition. The fixture was moved from its original date in May as Tallaght Stadium is needed for Ireland's hosting of the U17 European Championship finals.

The letter of the law says that the game had to be refixed and last night was the given date but expecting Finn Harps, a part-time club, to make the 500km round trip on a Monday night, for their third game in seven days, two of those Monday night trips to Dublin, was deeply unfair to Ollie Horgan's club, their players and supporters.

Monday Night Football also caught the home fans cold, the 1,582 crowd last night a massive drop on the 4,705 gate for Friday's game at home to Dundalk.

Those who did turn up came fully expecting a home win, though Harps were the first side to threaten as a Caolan McAleer shot on six minutes forced a save from Alan Mannus in the Rovers goal. Mannus would be a spectator for the rest of the night as, once Rovers took the lead on 11 minutes, it was over as a contest.

Dan Carr and Watts had threatened before Rovers got that lead goal, Lopes getting the final touch and putting the ball over the line after Harps keeper Peter Burke blocked Aaron McEneff's shot.

Target

In the 26th minute the home side had a penalty, Maltese import Jacob Borg was punished for a body-check on McEneff and though a penalty was awarded, Watts was off target with his spot-kick.

Former Bohemians man Watts made up for his miss on 38 minutes, as he was ready to pounce following an error by Harps debutant Harry Ascroft and Watts' fine strike was beyond the reach of Burke.

After a delay due to an injury to Harps captain Gareth Harkin, who left the field on a stretcher, the Donegal side would have hoped to get into the sanctuary, and warmth, of the dressing room at half-time with 'only' a two-goal deficit.

But Rovers had one more in them before half time, Aaron Greene marking his return to the side following suspension with a superb run down the left and a shot which powered past Burke.

With the luxury of that lead, Rovers were able to take off McEneff at the break, to rest him up for a Dublin derby on Friday which will be more of a battle, as Rovers sought out more goals.

Greene almost had his second of the night on 63 minutes, his shot striking the crossbar after good build-up play from Carr while on 70 minutes Watts was denied by keeper Burke.

There was more misery for Harps as manager Ollie Horgan was sent to the stands for the last 20 minutes, any touchline ban for him a problem for the club as assistant Paul Hegarty is already serving a three-game ban.


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