Derry City 0 Shamrock Rovers 2
IT WAS a tale of two penalties at Brandywell as title chasing Shamrock Rovers clinched victory over Derry City who lost ground in the race for Europe.
And it was former Brandywell favourite, Aaron McEneff who did the damage in the second half as he netted from the penalty spot to give Rovers the edge in a tense battle.
It was the midfielder's second spotkick against his former club this season and his 65th minutes spotkick broke the deadlock after Jack Byrne was brought down inside the penalty area by Greg Sloggett.
Derry's leading scorer, David Parkhouse then missed the chance to keep his impressive goal tally going when his penalty kick was saved superbly by Alan Mannus.
And Rovers punished the home lot when playmaker, Jack Byrne, who was named in Mick McCarthy's provisional Ireland squad for next month's double header against Bulgaria and Switzerland provided the pass for Aaron Greene to seal a second Brandywell win of the season for Stephen Bradley's troops.
It was a forgettable night for Derry who dropped back into fourth spot behind Bohemians who ran riot against UCD at Dalymount Park to take pole position in the race for Europe.
Derry had made four changes from last Friday's 1-0 FAI Cup win over Wexford with Ciaron Harkin, Gerardo Bruna, Darren Cole and Ally Gilchrist returning to the starting XI.
Stephen Bradley made two changes from the team which edged past Finn Harps in the FAI Cup last weekend with Aaron Greene getting the nod ahead of Dan Carr to lead the line while Greg Bolger was preferred to Gary O'Neill in the Rovers midfield.
Derry began with purpose despite facing into a strong wind and after a neat build-up involving skipper, McNamee who touched the ball invitingly into the path of Bruna, the Argentine tried his luck from 25 yards but his shot deflected narrowly behind.
Neither team could get control of proceedings during a scrappy opening with Derry working hard off the ball to deny Rovers space in dangerous areas of the pitch.
There was a couple of meaty tackles from both sides with Derry's Ciaron Harkin and Rovers' duo Lee Grace and Ronan Finn finding their way into referee, Robert Hennessy's book early doors.
Rovers survived a dangerous free-kick whipped in by Bruna from the left which was directed narrowly over his own crossbar by the retreating Finn on the half hour.
The Hoops forced a terrific save from Peter Cherrie who parried Graham Burke's left footed strike from 12 yards after Derry had failed to clear from a corner kick on 38 minutes.
Bruna, who signed a new contract with the Candy Stripes this week, fired a blistering strike just wide of Alan Mannus' goal two minutes before the break.
Kavanagh got in behind the Derry defence for the first time on the stroke of half-time and drilled his cross across the face of the goalmouth but no one had gambled and the City defence were able to mop up the danger.
The home lot started the second half brightly and from a quick counter McNamee spread the play wide to McDonagh on the right and he drove his powerful shot just wide of the far post.
Derry were beginning to find space in behind the Rovers defence and when McNamee cleverly stepped over the ball on the edge of the area from McDonagh's pass inside, Harkin blasted his shot high over the bar.
Greene raced in behind Ciaran Coll and drove into the penalty area before cutting the ball back towards Byrne who went down under the challenge of Sloggett and the referee pointed to the spot.
Up stepped ex-City midfielder, McEneff who coolly sent Cherrie the wrong way and the ball nestled into the right hand corner of the net to give Rovers a 65th minute lead.
Derry were awarded a penalty of their own eight minutes later as the referee decided Greg Bolger had fouled Parkhouse inside the area.
The big striker placed the ball on the spot looking for his 18th goal of the season but his effort was saved superbly by a strong hand of Mannus who turned it behind.
Four minutes later Rovers struck a further blow after a neat one-two, Byrne played a superb pass into the path of Greene who drove into the box before firing into the far corner to seal the win and keep alive Rovers chances of catching runaway leaders, Dundalk.
Derry City: P. Cherrie: D. Cole, E. Toal, A. Gilchrist, C. Coll: J. McDonagh, G. Sloggett, G. Bruna (D. McCauley 79), C. Harkin (M. McCrudden 74); B. McNamee (J. Malone 74); D. Parkhouse: Subs Not Used - N. Gartside, M. McChrystal, G. Gillespie, C. Davis.
Shamrock Rovers: A. Mannus: E. Boyle, R. Lopes, L. Grace, S. Kavanagh; J. Byrne, A. McEneff (D. Watts 79), G. Bolger (B. Kavanagh 87), G. Burke (G. O'Neill 77); R. Finn; A. Greene: Subs Not Used - K. Clarke, S. Callan, G. Cummins T. Oluwa.