Waterford FC 1
Shamrock Rovers 4
John Fallon reports from Waterford FC
GRAHAM BURKE BAGGED a brace as Shamrock Rovers recorded a come-from-behind victory at Waterford to take the outright lead at the top of the table.
Encouraged by manager Marc Bircham to build on last week’s shock victory at Dundalk, Waterford took the game to the champions from the off and scored from their first attack on five minutes.
When Eric Molloy was left alone on the left to receive a pass, he opted to cut in and shoot from the edge of the box.
Fortune favoured the brave as his stinging effort deflected off Sean Hoare and whipped past the wrongfooted Alan Mannus.
In response, Burke dragged his shot wide and Liam Scales tested Brian Murphy for the first time with a shot he gathered.
Then came the controversial turning point. When Sean Hoare’s cross struck the arm of Jamie Mascoll, linesman Darragh Keegan didn’t flag but referee Adriano Reale, standing behind the defender, blew for handball and pointed to the spot.
Burke stepped up to drill his penalty into the bottom left corner, despite Murphy going the right way and getting a hand to the ball.
Much to the approval of the 200 fans in the RSC for the first time this season, there were chances for Prince Mutswunguma and Aaron Greene at either end.
But the home crowd became loudest approaching the break when Reale failed to issue even a booking to Hoops midfielder Chris McCann for leaving Mutswunguma writhing in agony.
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Rovers inflicted pain of a different kind on the Blues with a second-half onslaught.
Barely three minutes had elapsed when Gaffney pounced to a Cameron Evans error on the edge of his box. The striker needed just one touch to control the ball and unleash a crisp drive beyond Murphy and in off the post.
Rovers continued to stretch Waterford’s youthful defence, leading to Burke’s second on the hour.
When Greene beat Jack Stafford in a footrace on the right side, he squared for the playmaker to sweep home his seventh of the season from close range.