League Report: Shamrock Rovers 1 - 0 Dundalk

Pico Lopes is planning to head to Ivory Coast in January now for the African Cup of Nations

Lopes with the only goal of the game Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

A second-half header from Pico Lopes gave Shamrock Rovers a narrow win over Dundalk as they maintained their push for four Premier Division titles.

This was a case of the difference in the two boxes as Dundalk wasted a catalogue of opportunities but Rovers took theirs as Lopes rose highest to head Dylan Watts’ corner home for his second goal of the season.

This coming after the visitors saw a succession of chances go begging.

The opening half hour was a case of the calm after the storm with Shamrock Rovers smothering their visitors in midfield without really threatening to open the scoring. Their best effort a Rory Gaffney shot that skidded off the greasy turf and into the chest of Nathan Shepperd.

From there Dundalk ended the first half with a flurry of chances with the best falling to John Martin who hit the foot of the goalpost with a header from two yards after some great build up play saw an Archie Davies shot blocked into his path.

Stephen O’Donnell’s side were a constant threat on the counter attack with Daniel Kelly, Daryl Horgan and Martin showing the potential for a potent front three but they were profligate in front of goal as their four year wait for a league win in Tallaght goes on.

Dundalk fashioned a host of chances towards the end of the half on the counter attack with Horgan unable to get on the end of Kelly’s cross before the latter had a goal bound effort bravely blocked by Lee Grace.

The Lilywhites started the second half the better and could have been ahead through Martin who was too flatfooted to capitalise on Horgan’s pass after the captain on the night drove through the midfield and played him in.

Their wastefulness in front of goal was punished by the four-in-a-row chasers who had already had a Gaffney goal disallowed for offside.

Watts swung in a superb corner and Lopes held off Louie Annesley to glance home.

The depth of the Shamrock Rovers bench paid dividends for the hosts who exerted more control in the second half and almost doubled their lead through a stinging Gaffney effort from distance that was tipped wide by a full stretch Shepperd.

Dundalk fashioned a late chance as substitute Sam Durrant went on a mazing run across the box but shot straight at Mannus which summed up their night.

In truth, Lopes’ goal stung Dundalk and sucked the wind out of their sails as the Hoops controlled proceedings for the remainder and ran out comfortable winners for their fifth home league success in a row.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Daniel Cleary, Ronan Finn (Trevor Clarke 71), Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh, Pico; Gary O'Neill, Dylan Watts (Richie Towell 76); Graham Burke (Johnny Kenny 71), Liam Burt (Markus Poom 53), Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Darragh Nugent.
Booked: Sean Kavanagh (55).

Dundalk: Nathan Shepperd; Louie Annesley, Darren Brownlie, Archie Davies, Hayden Muller (Robbie McCourt 80); Daryl Horgan, Daniel Kelly, Connor Malley (Cameron Elliott 80), Greg Sloggett (Alfie Lewis 63), Johannes Yli-Kokko (Sam Durrant 75); John Martin (Patrick Hoban 63).
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie, Andy Boyle, Darragh Leahy, Paul Doyle.
Booked: Louie Annesley (70), Hayden Muller (75), Stephen O'Donnell (95).

Referee: Neil Doyle
Attendance: 6,021
extratime.com Player of the Match: Rory Gaffney