by Robert O'Reilly
A first half strike from in-form Michael Drennan was enough for Shamrock Rovers to secure all three points at home to a stubborn Drogheda United.
Drogheda United manager Johnny McDonnell made five changes from the side that lost convincingly to Longford Town last Friday as Mark Hughes, Sean Brennan, Stephen Maher, Carl Walshe and Lee Duffy all started with regulars Lloyd Buckley and Daryl Kavanagh missing through injury.
True to form, Rovers started the game the brighter and Micheál Schlingermann was called into action on five minutes as he made a routine save from Keith Fahey’s weak effort.
The visitors were seeing little of the ball but they almost took the lead when Sean Brennan’s dangerous free kick was headed onto the crossbar by Alan Byrne but the defender was adjudged to have been offside.
Rovers were also carrying a goal threat from set pieces and defender David O’Connor will feel he should have tested Schlingermann when he connected with Fahey’s corner kick but his header sailed wide.
Even though there was less than twenty minutes played, the pressure was building on the Drogheda defence and they were breached as Simon Madden set-up Brandon Miele to cross from the right and his delivery was missed by three United players leaving Drennan with a simple tap-in for his seventh goal of the season.
It could have been 2-0 five minutes later as an intricate passing move from the Hoops saw Miele once again pick out Drennan who held the ball up before laying off for Fahey but the former Drogheda player’s low drive was blocked.
Forward opportunities were few and far between for the Drogs but they had arguably their best chance of the half when Stephen Maher dispossessed Madden before passing to Sean Brennan but the midfielder fired his shot over the bar.
Rovers started the second period in the same manner that they ended the first half as they continued to cause the Drogheda defence trouble down the right as Miele’s cross was met by Gavin Brennan at the back-post but the former Drogheda captain headed wide.
The Boynesiders were fortunate to avoid a potential red card when Schlingermann came racing out of his goal to intercept a through ball from Miele aimed for the run of Drennan with the Drogheda goalkeeper seemingly handling outside the area though referee Sean Grant waved play on.
There was no late onslaught on the Hoops goal from the visitors with Rovers unfortunate not to add a second in stoppage time when Miele sent a stunning half volley crashing against the crossbar much to the winger’s frustration.
Drogheda will be aiming for their first win in ten next Friday when they host Bray Wanderers in a bottom of the table clash.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will complete their first round set of fixtures on Friday when they face Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium, kick-off 8pm.
Having won their opening two matches of the season, Drogheda have endured a poor run of results that has seen the Boynesiders pick up only two points from the last 24 available.
United’s season hit its lowest point last Friday as they were beaten 3-0 at home to Longford Town but Drogheda boss Johnny McDonnell has no interest in excuses for an abject performance.
“I was very disappointed with how we played on Friday,” McDonnell stated during the week. ”I’m not sure why we were so poor but I can assure all the fans that no one was more disappointed and frustrated with the performance than the players themselves.
“We didn’t start well which has been a feature in some of our games that we are working hard to address. If you give teams head starts, then results are going to continue to be hard to come by and that’s happened on Friday by going a goal down inside two minutes.”
Drogheda went into the Longford clash buoyed by picking up their first point away from home having come from behind late on against St Patrick’s Athletic and McDonnell admits that his side have performed better so far against the bigger sides.
“We’ve put in our best displays this season against St Pat’s, Cork and Dundalk because they are different games. It’s easier for us to be set-up on the counter attack and to get in amongst the opposition. Last week wasn’t like that but it was a hiccup and we won’t dwell on it now.”
The Drogs recorded their first ever league win at Tallaght Stadium last season with Gavan Holohan’s goal bringing an end to the five year wait though Drogheda did lose both league games at home as well as being eliminated from the EA Sports Cup by Rovers.
The Hoops go into Friday’s meeting twelve points ahead of Drogheda and McDonnell is expecting Pat Fenlon’s side to be challenging for honours come the end of the season.
“They are a very good team all the way through. Simon Madden is probably the best full back in the league while Gavin Brennan and Sean O’Connor will give them quality delivery out wide that we need to deal with. I think it’s the best squad that Rovers have had for a few years and it will be a difficult challenge for us.”
Defender Neil Yadolahi has returned to training but remains a couple of weeks away from selection while Sean Thornton will serve a one match ban for his dismissal against Longford. Lloyd Buckley is an injury doubt and will be assessed before kick-off.
Patrick Cregg (Stephen McPhail 68)
Gavin Brennan (Gary McCabe 59)
Mick Daly (Sam McGowan 48)
Mark Hughes (Robert O’Reilly 82)
Sean Brennan (Cathal Brady 72)
Kieran Marty Waters
Michael Drennan 18
Gavin Brennan 36
Jason Marks 73