Three second-half goals ensured that Fairview Rangers withstood the impact of Summerville Rovers’ withdrawal to restore their two-point lead at the top of the LDL Premier Division.
Three consecutive wins prior to this fixture had hoisted perennial relegation candidates Aisling Annacotty up to the rarefied air of the LDL Premier Division’s high peaks. But, on the basis of his starting selection for Sunday’s visit to table-topping Fairview, manager Mike McCarthy may have made the fatal mistake of looking down.
Rather than persist with a midfield diamond, with Keith Mawdsley in tandem with the promising Adam Foley, McCarthy dropped the latter in favour of stationing former Limerick forward Chimka Manjor on the left of a more conservative 4-1-4-1.
Given the continued absence of a recognised holding midfielder in the Fairview starting eleven – a deficiency that proved their undoing away to a counter-attacking Regional United – the failure to field a number ten looked like a miscalculation, and it was one that McCarthy rectified in the 15th minute, when striker Jason Lipper replaced the injured Brian Donovan.
Although dominant in terms of possession throughout the first-half, Fairview did show signs of vulnerability, and were guilty of giving up the better chances. Attempts to play out from the back occasionally came a cropper when Aisling pressed high.
The best chance of the half saw Damien Collins somehow contrive not to head home a Barry Hooton back-post corner that stemmed from Donovan dispossessing Jonathan Hannafin in home territory.
As in the midweek victory over Ballynanty Rovers, Aisling continued to pose a serious threat at set-pieces. A Lipper free header, from another back-post Hooton corner, should have hit the target in the 20th minute.
Lipper will also rue a failure to complete an impressive fast break from the visitors, when Mawdsley found the unmarked striker with a pinpoint right-wing cross that evaded the head of AJ O’Connor.
Despite denying their hosts any clear-cut chances, Aisling again looked vulnerable down their left-hand side, where Fairview’s Cian O’Donoghue was keen to run at Hooton at every opportunity.
Having run infield to craft several fruitless long-range shooting chances in the opening period, O’Donoghue saw the light in the second stanza when he skinned Hooton on the outside and delivered a low cross into the corridor of uncertainty that George Daffy snaffled at the back post.
McCarthy quickly reorganised his troops into their original 4-1-4-1 configuration again, through the introduction of left-winger Gavin Dillon, but that change was unlikely to increase Aisling’s attacking threat, given the knock-on effect of Mawdsley’s resumed isolation.
By the time Foley finally got on the pitch, in place of an injured Mawdsley, the hosts had doubled their advantage from an inswinging Christy Doyle corner-kick, that crashed in off the crossbar via the head of Hannafin.
Paul O’Donnell’s side then added a fortunate shade of gloss to the scoreline, when a David Hannon square pass facilitated Daffy in tapping into an empty net to both complete a counter-attack and register his 7th goal of the season.
Daffy 63′, 80′, Hannafin 68′