A brace from Maxine Blanchard and Gavin Brennan’s first ever goal for Shamrock Rovers handed the Hoops a thrilling 3-2 win over a plucky Longford Town side, who might feel slightly hard done by as Gary Shaw had strong claims for a penalty waved away by referee Derek Tomney in the second half.
Rovers hit the front early as a Brandon Miele shot was pushed away by goalkeeper Paul Skinner only to be palmed into the path of Brennan, who tucked away his first goal to give Rovers a flying start. The Hoops continued their possession dominance and kept the ball coolly in midfield, limiting the visitors to few opportunities in the Hoops’ half.
However, after Simon Madden cut out a Ben Mohamad cross, former Hoop Pat Flynn was there to head home to stun the home crowd. The visitors, galvanised by this goal, pressed again and Stephen Rice missed a glorious chance on his return to Tallaght Stadium, as a long ball into the box fell to the former Rovers hero but he placed his shot wide of Craig Hyland’s goal.
Longford also missed a glorious chance moments later when Shaw capitalised on a misjudgement by Blanchard and the striker was left one-on-one with Hyland, but with the goal at his mercy, somehow the former Bray Wanderers striker missed the target.
Rovers started the second half with much more purpose and Brennan went close after good work from Brandon Miele, while he also shot over from a Madden cross. Rovers best move of the match was crafted when substitute Marty Waters played a beautiful one-two with Patrick Cregg but the midfielder’s effort went wide of Skinner’s right hand post.
At this stage Rovers started to move into top gear, with Keith Fahey picking up a loose ball from Danny North and forcing a fine save from Skinner in the Town goal. Top scorer Mikey Drennan, was next to go close as he fizzed a shot just wide. The elusive goal eventually did come, as Blanchard poked in a Rovers corner at the backpost.
Only three minutes later Blanchard was there again, this time to head home a Waters free-kick. However, the Town didn’t lie down and made it a nervous final few moments when Kaleem Simon finished from a Mark Salmon flick on. Rovers just about held on for a valuable three points.
Maxine Blanchard was the hero for Rovers as he trebled his goals from the season when the home side badly needed goals. However, the centre half was better in the opposition box as Gary Shaw got the better of him in the first half and should have punished the mistake.
Tony Cousins is the zero this week after getting sent to the stands in the aftermath of Maxine Blanchard’s tackle on Gary Shaw, which was waved away by the referee.
From almost tackling the referee, to talking his way into Mr. Tomney’s book. Sullivan was also constantly illegally gaining extra yardage from every free-kick while being corrected by the referee, only for him to put the ball back forward when the referee’s back was turned, much to the amusement of the fans.
The battle of Stephen Rice and Keith Fahey was a joy to behold. Rice won the first half battle and made Rovers look ordinary for the majority of the half but the experience and class of Fahey prevailed in the latter stages of the game.
What Happens Next?
Rovers remain unbeaten this season following this result and close the gap to the top two, leaving an intriguing match next week at the top of the table against Cork City at Turner’s Cross. The Hoops will want to tighten up at the back and be more clinical if they are to get a positive result on Friday.
Longford will feel they have winnable fixtures over the next few weeks as they face Limerick, Bray and Galway.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, Max Blanchard, Luke Byrne; Brandon Miele (Marty Waters 60), Patrick Cregg, Keith Fahey, Gavin Brennan; Danny North (Gary McCabe 75), Mikey Drennan (Gareth McCaffrey 90+2)
Longford Town: Paul Skinner; Pat Sullivan, Mark Rossiter (Jamie Mulhall h/t), Pat Flynn (Willie Tyrell 73), Martin Deady; Mark Salmon, Kevin O’Connor, Stephen Rice, Ayman Ben Mohamed; Gary Shaw, David O’Sullivan (Kalem Simon 67)
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin)
Dan O’Carroll, Pundit Arena