“Flat” Rovers still in great shape

by Dave Donnelly

League of Ireland Premier Division
Shamrock Rovers 2
Waterford 1

Stephen Bradley says his Shamrock Rovers side couldn’t be “in any better shape” ahead of Friday’s night’s final Dublin derby of the season in Tallaght.

Second-placed Rovers host third-placed Bohs as they seek to avoid a whitewash of four league defeats against their bitter crosstown rivals.

The Hoops do at least come into the game with form on their side, having won their last five games in all competitions, while rotating their squad.

Tuesday night’s victory over Waterford in Tallaght was the most difficult of them all and Bradley admitted their performance was “flat”.

Goals in either half from Graham Cummins and Graham Burke – his first since returning to the club on loan from Preston North End – were enough to seal a nervy 2-1 win.

Dean O’Halloran had pulled Waterford level just before the break, only for Lithuanian international Karolis Chvedukas to earn a straight red in first-half injury time.

That just about did for a Blues side who were disciplined but chastened by a 5-1 drubbing on their own pitch at Rovers’ hands last week.

A dire first half passed by almost without incident, but nine minutes before the break, a calamity at the back presented Rovers with a gift to open the scoring.

Rob Slevin left his pass back to keeper Matthew Connor well short and on-loan striker Cummins strode in before side-footing into the corner.

The lead lasted just five minute as debutant Danny Lafferty gave away a free kick and O’Halloran met JJ Lunney’s delivery with a firm header.

There was more drama to come when Chvedukas was shown a straight red for a lunge on Lafferty in injury time and, from the resulting free kick, Rovers hit the post twice but somehow couldn’t score.

The home side hit the front six minutes into the second half as Lafferty showed his pace and trickery on the left before laying the ball on a plate for Burke to sweep home.

Aaron Greene had a trio of chances to wrap the game up but missed them all, the worst a volley wide from point blank range from Sean Kavanagh’s cross.

It almost cost Rovers late on as Zack Elbouzedi’s shot was spilled by Alan Mannus into the path of Walter Figueira, but Lee Grace did brilliantly to nick the ball clear.

“We can’t go into the game in any better shape,” said Bradley.

“We were flat tonight, but you can excuse that given the run we’ve been on and the games we’ve played in general: [in] form, scoring goals, not conceding, everyone’s fit.

“We’ve got to approach it in the same way we approach every game this year. We’ve got to concentrate on our jobs to ensure we hit our levels.

“If we do that, and we perform how we have been, the result will look after itself.

“We’ve just got to do what we’ve been doing. We’re ready to go.”

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