By Killian McHale

Shamrock Rovers made the long journey up to The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on Monday evening, as the Hoops scored twice in the first half to pick up another important three points in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

Coming into the game, Hoops boss Stephen Bradley made two changes from Friday night’s win over Sligo Rovers, with Richie Towell & Ronan Finn coming into the side in place of Graham Burke & Neil Farrugia who dropped to the bench.

The home side started the brighter of the two teams, twice coming close with headers. Firstly, Sadou Diallo headed into Alan Mannus’ arms at the back post after 3 minutes, before Michael Duffy headed wide of Mannus’ post from a Ryan Graydon cross moments later.

After this, Rovers began to control the play with everything coming through Jack Byrne in the middle of the field – the start of what was to become a theme throughout the game.

Rovers first opportunity came after 14 minutes, when Johnny Kenny broke up the play just inside the Derry half, laying off to Byrne who found Finn in space on the right wing. Finn’s low cross found Richie Towell’s late run at the near post, but the midfielder was unable to get any clear contact on the ball with Brian Maher in the Derry goal able to clear the danger.

Both sides shared possession without troubling either keeper, until the half-hour mark when a goal-of-the-season contender opened the scoring.

Jack Byrne picked up the ball in space just inside the Derry half before spraying a diagonal ball out to Trevor Clarke on the left wing, who’s perfectly weighted header found the on-rushing Towell who volleyed the ball over Maher in the Derry goal with his first touch to send the Rovers fans behind the goal into wild celebrations.

Derry created half-chances after the goal, with Jamie McGonigle coming closest after 34 minutes, firing high and wide of Alan Mannus’ goal after getting on the end of a Ryan Graydon cross.

As the half was petering out, things got even better for the Hoops when Jack Byrne doubled our lead with the last kick of the half.

A long ball down to Rovers right-wing forced Derry keeper Maher to come out of his goal to clear the danger, however, his poor clearance was headed back in-field by Gary O’Neill, with Jack Byrne picking up the loose ball and his instinctive volley from 35 yards found the back of the empty Derry net to extend Rovers’ lead at the break.

Derry made a double change at the break, with Jordan McEneff & Colm Whelan introduced in the hope of changing the game, but the second half followed the same pattern as the first with Stephen Bradley’s side continuing to dominate proceedings.

On the hour mark, Rovers were dealt a blow when Alan Mannus was forced off with a suspected dislocated finger, with birthday boy Leon Pohls coming on to replace the Northern Irish keeper for the final half an hour.

Both sides shared half-chances with substitutes Cian Kavanagh and Aaron Greene spurning good opportunities for either side, before Derry were given a lifeline with 5 minutes remaining as Dan Cleary was adjudged to have fouled Kavanagh inside the penalty area and referee Rob Harvey pointed straight to the spot.

Ben Doherty stepped up to take the penalty, but his tame effort was saved by Leon Pohls down low to his right to keep Rovers two-nil lead intact.

This drained any hope the home side had of getting something from the game, as Rovers picked up another important win to move up to 2nd place in the Premier Division table.

Next up for Rovers is the Dublin Derby on Friday night (5th May), as the Hoops go head to head with Bohemian FC in Tallaght in a 7:45 pm kick-off.

Derry City: Maher; Boyce, McEleney, McJannett ©, Doherty; Diallo (67’ C.Kavanagh), O’Reilly; Graydon (84’ B.Kavanagh), Duffy, O’Neill (46’ McEneff); McGonigle (46’ Whelan).

Derry City Unused Substitutes: Tadhg Ryan (GK), Ciaran Coll, Matthew Ward, Sean Patton, Liam Mullan.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus (63’ Pohls); Cleary, Lopes, Grace; Finn © (77’ Hoare), O’Neill, Poom, Clarke (77’ Farrugia); Towell, Byrne, Kenny (67’ Greene).

Shamrock Rovers Unused Substitutes: Graham Burke, Simon Power, Darragh Nugent, Rory Gaffney, Conan Noonan.