Report: Ryan McMullen

Pico pops up with a crucial diving header as the Hoops claimed victory on the road in Waterford.

Following Friday’s Derby win in Tallaght and with a particularly hectic fixture schedule this month, Stephen Bradley made 5 changes to his side that came out on top against Bohemians less than 72 hours previous. Sean Hoare came into the team to replace Pico Lopes at the back whilst Lee Grace captained the side. Aaron Greene also made a start with Johnny Kenny out. Markus Poom, Richie Towell and Conan Noonan all started too, ahead of Dylan Watts, Darragh Nugent and Josh Honohan who dropped to the bench.

The day was bright and sunny at the RSC, where the Hoops were looking to back up Friday’s success by putting another three points on the board.

It was Rovers that started on the front foot, Graham Burke called Waterford goalkeeper Sam Sargeant into early action but the Englishman was able to smother the ball without trouble. That chance, along with a Markus Poom header that sailed over the crossbar was the closest they got to goal in the opening stages.

Nearing the half-hour mark, a Markus Poom cross was met by the head of Aaron Greene, but the striker couldn’t direct his effort on target from close range. Another let-off for the hosts.

Despite being in control, Rovers were dealt a blow when Lee Grace looked to have sustained a hamstring injury. The 31-year-old limped off, handing the captain’s armband to Pico Lopes who came on in his place.

From the resumption of play, Graham Burke tried his luck from range, with his effort flashing just wide of the post, to the relief of Sargeant who was at full stretch.

Shortly after, Greene had another sight of goal, however, his shot lacked power and was stopped by Sargeant.

The home side had some half-chances as the break approached, with a Ben McCormack effort from the edge of the area the closest they came to finding a breakthrough.

The Hoops came close on multiple occasions in the first 45 minutes, but the deadlock was yet to be broken as it remained all square at half-time.

Waterford were quick out of the blocks following the restart and enjoyed a period of possession in the opening stages, however the Hoops rearguard absorbed the pressure well.

55 minutes in, the deadlock would be broken. Some quick thinking from Markus Poom saw the Estonian play a beautifully weighted ball right through the heart of the Waterford defence, into the path of Darragh Burns, who controlled and rounded Sargeant to slot home into an empty net to give the Hoops a deserved lead.

The response was almost immediate. When Asamoah went down at the edge of the Rovers penalty box, the hosts were awarded a free kick. Robbie McCourt stepped up with his goalbound effort taking an unfortunate deflection off Roberto Lopes who had jumped in the wall, leaving Pohls flat-footed as the ball ended up in the bottom right corner of the net.

If the hosts’ leveller was slightly fortuitous, the Hoops’ winner was anything but. Conan Noonan picked up the ball near the left sideline before providing a brilliant ball across the face of goal where the skipper had made a run across Grant Horton to meet Conan’s cross with a diving header past Sargeant to restore the Hoops’ lead.

Shortly after the goal, a triple change was made that saw Noonan and Burke make way for Trevor Clarke and Josh Honohan. Aaron Greene, who picked up a knock, also made way for 17-year-old striker Cian Dillon, making his league debut – a proud moment for the academy product. Dillon had impressed in many of the Hoops pre-season friendlies and was also a stand-out performer in Tony Cousins U20 side during their Leinster Senior Cup campaign earlier this year.

The home side pushed to try and find an equaliser late on but Rovers soaked up everything Waterford threw at them to see the game out superbly well to pick up a valuable three points.

700 Hoops packed out the away end at the RSC and they will have headed home happy after an enjoyable evening watching their team claim success on the road.

It was a result that made it three wins from the last three outings for Stephen Bradley’s side.

Af full time the team made their way over to applaud the travelling support, many of the players encouraged debutant Cian Dillon to take a moment to celebrate with the travelling fans, and he did just that, performing Bradley’s signature celebration in front of the chuffed away crowd.

The Champions will now look to build on the momentum built in recent weeks when they make the short trip to Richmond Park on Friday night where they will face St Patrick’s Athletic. Kick-off on the night is set for 7.45 pm.

Waterford: Sargeant, Power, Horton, Radkowski ©, McCourt (McMenamy 90+1’), Forde (Arubi 81’), McCormack, Evans (Asamoah 62’), McDonald (Macadam 62’), Parsons, Amond.

Waterford unused substitutes: Connor, Burke, Leahy, Pattisson, Akachukwu.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls, Burns, Cleary, Hoare, Grace © (Lopes 31’), Poom, O’Neill, Noonan (Clarke 76’), Burke (Honohan 76’), Greene (Dillon 76’), Towell (Nugent 61’).

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Steacy, Leitis, Watts, Barrett.

Referee: Rob Hennessy