Shamrock Rovers got their stuttering league campaign back on track with a nervy 1-0 victory over Dublin rivals Shelbourne in their Airtricity League Premier Division encounter at Tallaght Stadium.
Jason McGuinness should have opened the scoring for the hosts after 15 minutes but he headed wide from close range after a James Chambers free-kick
However, Hoops pressure was rewarded with the only goal of the game in the 29th minute when Ronan Finn latched on to Karl Sheppard’s cross and fired a low shot past Ger Hanley.
The win will come as welcome relief to Hoops manager Trevor Croly, who has endured a difficult season despite enjoying success through their Setanta Sports Cup victory over Drogheda United a fortnight ago.
Successive league draws against St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians have seen the 2011 league winners fall further behind in the title race but this win should ease the murmurs of discontent that have increased in volume over the past few weeks.
His troubles, however, pale into insignificance compared to those of his opposite number Johnny McDonnell.
Languishing five points adrift at the foot of the table prior to the fixture, McDonnell would have required a positive opening from the Reds and Robert Bayly offered early encouragement with a 25-yard drive that Barry Murphy gathered safely in the fifth minute.
In keeping with much of their recent displays, the Hoops enjoyed a generous amount of possession without threatening and their initial frustrations were reflected in Stephen Rice’s caution for simulation inside the penalty area in the 16th minute.
Rice’s influence was seen in a more positive light three minutes later but his chip from 16 yards failed to clear Hanley.
From the ensuing clearance, Adam Hanlon cut inside Conor McCormack but blazed his shot over the crossbar.
McGuinness then spurned a promising header, before Rovers opened the scoring.
Rice was once again instrumental as he released Sheppard, who raced to the by-line before picking out Finn, who made no mistake in registering his sixth league goal of the campaign.
A second almost followed three minutes later, but on this occasion Finn drove too closely to Hanley.
With Rice becoming progressively more influential in an attacking role, the Hoops could well have settled the issue in the 38th minute, but Sean O’Connor dragged his attempt wide after a clever through-ball from Rice.
The second half resumed in a similar vein, with the hosts dominating possession and a trademark run from Finn through the Shels midfield in the 49th minute culminated in a powerful drive that Hanley managed to parry to safety.
Far from building on these seemingly solid foundations, the Hoops reverted to a more ponderous display with few chances created despite a monopoly on possession.
Sheppard should have settled the tie when heading a Conor Powell wastefully over in the 73rd minute.
The visitors offered a greater attacking threat following the introduction of Philip Hughes and the Shels talisman almost levelled matters but Derek Foran timed his header to perfection when clearing a Hanlon delivery in the 78th minute.
Rovers, naturally nervous following their late concession to Bohemians last Friday evening, retreated to the edge of their area, allowing their opponents to generate a degree of momentum.
Such a tactic looked to have failed them as Hughes escaped beyond McCormack in injury-time but fellow substitute Dean Kelly scuffed the glorious opportunity, much to the relief of the home support.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Conor McCormack, Derek Foran, Jason McGuinness, Conor Powell; Sean O’Connor (Gary McCabe, 79), Stephen Rice (c), Ronan Finn, James Chambers (Robinson, 85), Thomas Stewart; Karl Sheppard (Ciaran Kilduff, 77).
Subs not used: Richard Brush, David Elebert, Alan Kehoe, Billy Dennehy.
Shelbourne: Ger Hanley; Robert Cornwall, Ian Ryan (c), Graham Gartland, Pat Flynn; Stephen Hurley, Sean Brennan, Stephen Sheerin (Philip Hughes, 69), Robert Bayly, Adam Hanlon; Mark Leech (Dean Kelly, 53).
Subs not used: Niall Burdon, Alex Prizeman, Craig Mooney, Adam O’Connor, Darren Tinnelly.