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Rovers smash blues for six and eye title win

Shamrock Rovers 6-1 Waterford

Leaders brush aside Waterford to go eight clear of chasers Bohs

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ON TOP: Shamrock Rovers players, including Aaron
Greene, celebrate after Roberto Lopes scored their
second goal during the SSE Airtricity League Premier
Division match against Waterford at Tallaght Stadium last night. Pic: Sportsfile

ON TOP: Shamrock Rovers players, including Aaron Greene, celebrate after Roberto Lopes scored their second goal during the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match against Waterford at Tallaght Stadium last night. Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

ON TOP: Shamrock Rovers players, including Aaron Greene, celebrate after Roberto Lopes scored their second goal during the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match against Waterford at Tallaght Stadium last night. Pic: Sportsfile

European football carries on without them this season but Shamrock Rovers are another step closer to ensuring that they will be in the Champions League next term as they brushed aside the challenge of a Waterford side and continued their march towards the league title.

A clinical 6-1 win for the Hoops, with a goal each for Aaron Greene, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Jack Byrne, Graham Burke and Dean Williams, put a dent in the hopes of European qualification for a manager-less Waterford but also gave Rovers the points tally which will have fans wondering not if but when, exactly, the title can be won.

Yet after a first 35 minutes, which saw Rovers frustrated, there was still the potential for an upset here.

But then Waterford's world fell apart, Rovers scoring three goals in the space of four minutes just before the break.

Waterford had no answer and as Stephen Bradley's men racked up their third successive league win, it's hard to see their coronation as league champions being prevented.

With six games left to play Rovers are eight points ahead and while Bohemians could, potentially, cut that lead to five points on Friday, the weekend could see the title race reduced to a two-horse race.

Should Rovers defeat current champions Dundalk at Oriel Park on Sunday, there would be an astonishing 18-point between the Hoops and the Lilywhites, ending Dundalk's faint interest in the title and leaving it to Bohs to make Rovers work hard for a first league crown since 2011.

Yet this was shaping up to be a frustrating night before Rovers took control at the end of the first half with that rapid-fire three goal salvo.

Waterford's veteran keeper Brian Murphy was called on to deny Rovers twice in the first six minutes, and Graham Burke had a perfect chance to open the scoring on 21 minutes, getting himself into a good position after a clever pass from Dylan Watts but could only find the side netting.

Having survived so long with their goal intact Waterford, managed by caretaker boss Fran Rockett, grew in confidence, Ali Coote and Michael O'Connor looking menacing, briefly.

But within minutes, Rovers had the game sewn up. Greene claimed the first goal on 41 minutes, a simple pass from Neil Farrugia all he needed after Waterford were guilty over over-playing the ball around their own box.

On 43 minutes, Roberto Lopes was left unmarked to head home a Byrne corner kick and a minute later it was 3-0 with a repeat of that, Byrne's corner and this time Lopes' defensive partner, Lee Grace, with the header.

The second half offered no respite for Waterford who conceded again three minutes after the restart. O'Brien slid the ball to Finn, the cross into the box from the Rovers captain was flicked on by Neil Farrugia and Byrne was left free to score.

Just before the hour mark the home side had their fifth, another where the Blues offered little or no resistance as, after a slick passing move ended up at the feet of wide man Farrugia, he played in Burke for a simple finish.

Waterford keeper Murphy was audibly frustrated at how open his own side were but he will have admired the response, a goal back on 67 minutes from O'Connor. Left back Tyreke Wilson whipped in a cross and despite having four defenders around him, O'Connor was still able to neatly finish.

And sub Dean Williams scored his first goal for the club on 89 minutes, shrugging off his markers as he chased down Byrne's ball and beat Murphy.

The only downside for Rovers was having to see out the last eight minutes with just ten men, Lopes suffering an injury after all five substitutions had been made.

Herald