Shamrock Rovers hopes of reaching the Europa Conference League group stages took a big hit on Thursday night as they fell to a 4-2 defeat away to Flora Tallinn.

Midfielder Martin Miller was twice on target for the home side, while Sergei Zenjov and Rauno Sappinen also scored, as the Estonian champions put Rovers to the sword.

The Hoops twice pulled their hosts back to within a goal as Graham Burke and Liam Scales netted late in each half, but Miller's second in the dying minutes was the decisive blow.

Stephen Bradley had spoken in advance of the tie that Flora would be the best side they’d faced in Europe so far, better even than Champions League conquerors Slovan Bratislava.

Those proved to be prescient words as they were technically and tactically out-maneuvered by a classy Flora outfit who belied their own mediocre league form with a performance of quality and confidence.

Sergei Zenjov scores the opener for Flora

The absence of the in-form Lee Grace in the Rovers defence proved telling as his replacement Sean Hoare was terrorised down the right by the slick Sappinen and Zenjov.

It was the experienced Joey O’Brien whose mistake led to the opening goal, however, as his pass from the back was cut out and, within three touches, the ball was in the net.

Sappinen picked the ball up 25 yards out and spotted that Zenjov had escaped the attention of holding midfielder Gary O’Neill, and he slotted the ball coolly into the corner.

Flora looked to target Rovers in transition and they had already given the Hoops one scare when they doubled their lead on the break just before the half hour.

As Rovers were slow to get back following a missed effort from Burke, Sappinen sat down O’Brien and fed the late-arriving Miller to smash the ball into the top corner.

The Hoops pulled one back against the run of play just before the break with their first sustained period of pressure, as Burke shimmied in the box before picking out the corner.

Rovers looked a side reborn after the break and they took the game to the home side in search of a leveller, but they struggled to create openings.

Liam Scales scores Shamrock Rovers' second goal with a looping header

Flora had no such troubles and a mistake from Lopes should have seen Sappinen make it 3-1, only for Alan Mannus to pull off a wonder save.

O’Brien headed a glorious chance wide moments later, and Rovers paid the price with 14 minutes remaining as Mannus failed to parry Zenjov’s shot clear, and Sappinen took advantage.

Still, Rovers looked to have salvaged a decent result late on when wing back Scales sent a looping header over home keeper Matvei Igonen.

Rovers could only hold out for a minute, however, as Hoare was too easily rolled by Sappinen and he pulled back for Miller, arriving late once more, to finish off the bar.

Flora Tallinn: Matvei Igonen; Michael Lilander, Ken Kallaste, Henrik Purg (Erko Tougjas 90), Markkus Seppik; Henrik Ojamaa, Martin Miller, Markus Soomets, Konstantin Vassiljev (c), Sergei Zenjov; Rauno Sappinen (Rauno Alliku 89).

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Roberto Lopes, Sean Hoare, Joey O'Brien; Ronan Finn (c), Gary O'Neill, Liam Scales, Dylan Watts; Rory Gaffney (Aaron Greene 54), Graham Burke, Richie Towell (Daniel Mandroiu 68).