Shamrock Rovers 2 Waterford FC 0
By Matt Keane
Not for the first time this season the match referee turned out to be the main character in a match involving Waterford FC.
Blues manager Marc Bircham changed three players from the team which started against Dundalk the previous week and he also changed the format of his charges just after the hour mark but a decision made by referee Rob Harvey turned the game on its head when he judged that Eddie Nolan had handled the ball just outside the penalty area.
Substitute Aidomo Emakhu was the player who shot at goal. He was only two yards away from Nolan who attempted to block the shot by moving in with his back to the ball so it was impossible for him to get out of the way. The ball took a slight deflection off Eddie's arm but Harvey pointed for the free-kick which Danny Mandroiu took. The ball finished up in the net but to add insult to injury Rory Gaffney ran across Brian Murphy's eyeline in an offside position. Mandroiu scored a second goal afterwards following a mistake by Greg Halford.
Shamrock Rovers went three points clear at the top following this victory in the Tallaght Stadium while Waterford remain in a battle to avoid a relegation-promotion playoff at the conclusion of the campaign. Blues keeper Brian Murphy made a quite stunning save to deny the home side the lead goal inside three minutes when Ronan Finn knocked the ball back to Dylan Watts out on the right, and after he put the ball on the head of Danny Mandroiu, his point-blank header was somehow kept out.
It was Mandroiu that carved out a great chance for himself five minutes later as his side set the tone of the game when he took a pass from Watts on the right-side, and after bringing the ball onto his left-foot, his cracking effort came crashing back off the crossbar with Murphy beaten.
Roberto Lopes went close to unlocking the Waterford defence on 29 minutes when he peeled off his marker inside the penalty area to get on the end of a Dylan Watts right-wing corner kick, but his free header just cleared Murphy’s crossbar.
Rovers were guilty of missing another great chance to break the deadlock six minutes later when Ronan Finn played in a sublime ball from the right-side that picked out the run of Rory Gaffney, who got in front of Greg Halford, but he steered a close-range shot wide of the near post.
After playing second fiddle for long periods of the first half, the Blues had two big chances to go into the lead at the break with the first coming on 42 minutes when Greg Halford’s long throw from the right was flicked onto the back post for Shane Griffin, but his effort was hooked clear by Sean Gannon.
The second chance two minutes later was more clear cut when Griffin sent in a brilliant right-wing free-kick to the back post where the inrushing Anthony Wordsworth got on the end of the ball, but his left-footed effort was into the side netting with Alan Mannus beaten.
Like the first half, it was the home side that took up the running at the start of the second half with Danny Mandroiu sending in a cross that was well collected by Murphy before Gary O’Neill took a pass from Ronan Finn on 48 minutes, but his shot flew over the bar.
A stoppage in play saw a lengthy hold up on 52 minutes when Cameron Evans and Aaron Greene clashed in the area with the latter forced off injured before Dylan Watts brought an excellent save out of Brian Murphy five minutes later when cracking a shot from the right that saw the keeper turn the ball around his near post.
Dublin referee Rob Harvey was the centre of attention yet again on 61 minutes when he harshly penalised Eddie Nolan for handball after a shot from Aidomo Emakhu, and after Danny Mandroiu buried the free kick, Rory Gaffney was in a clear offside position blocking keeper Murphy, but the flag stayed down.
It was rough justice on the Blues as they defended resolutely, but they nearly responded with a goal of their own on 67 minutes when Junior Quitirna, who had just replaced Shane Griffin, sent in a cross for John Martin, but keeper Alan Mannus caught his effort from underneath the crossbar.
Mandroiu missed a golden chance to double the lead for his side sixty seconds later when he raced through on goal after a brilliant through ball form Dylan Watts, but the Republic of Ireland International fired wide of the advancing Brian Murphy.
The hosts ensured all three points that kept them at the summit of the table ten minutes from time when man of the match Mandroiu dispossessed the ball from Blues defender Greg Halford to race clear on goal, and he drilled a low shot under Murphy to seal the win.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Mannus, Sean Gannon, Roberto Lopes, Barry Cotter, Ronan Finn, Dylan Watts (Chris McCann ’83), Richie Towell, Gary O’Neill (Conan Noonan ’87), Aaron Greene (Aidomo Emakhu ’56), Danny Mandroiu, Rory Gaffney.
WATERFORD FC: Brian Murphy, Darragh Power, Greg Halford, Eddie Nolan, Cameron Evans (Jack Stafford ’83), Shane Griffin (Junior Quitirna ’66), Niall O’Keeffe, Anthony Wordsworth, Phoenix Patterson, John Martin, Prince Mutswunguma (Isaac Tshipamba ’76).
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin). Assistants Wayne McDonnell and Darragh Keegan.