By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United breathed life back into their promotion push after they defeated Shelbourne 4-2 on penalties in a dramatic encounter at Tolka Park.
The hosts were reduced to nine men by the time Sean Brennan had drawn Drogheda level on aggregate before Chris Lyons put Drogheda ahead though a resolute Shels forced extra-time and penalties through Adam Evans’ strike.
Drogs boss Tim Clancy made one change from the side that lost the first leg 1-0 on Friday as Kevin Farragher replaced Gareth McCaffrey with Mark Doyle partnering Lyons up front.
Shels seemed nervous from kick-off and this was evident as Reece McEnteer committed three fouls in the opening 10 minutes with the centre-back receiving two yellow cards to rock the hosts.
A speculative drive from Paddy Kavanagh was all that Shels could muster before Drogheda took the lead. Lyons shielded the ball on the edge of the box before teeing up Brennan who produced a trademark strike that found the top corner.
Frustrated by how the tie was going against them, Shels were then reduced to nine as James English was dismissed for a reckless two-footed lunge on Jake Hyland with the Drogs captain having to be stretchered off the pitch.
Drogheda introduced McCaffrey at half-time as they went in search of a second and it arrived on 69 minutes. Brennan picked out the run of Lyons who rounded the advancing Dean Delany before firing past two defenders on the goal line.
While it may have seemed that Drogheda were cruising towards victory, Shels drew level in the tie as Karl Moore whipped in a superb ball from the right which Evans tapped home at the back post.
United struggled to break down a blanket defence as the game went to extra-time with the closest they came to a third goal was when John Ross Wilson cleared Farragher’s goal bound shot off the line.
Paul Skinner was to prove to be the Drogheda hero in the shootout as he saved from both Evans and Lorcan Fitzgerald leaving Mark Doyle to clinch victory as he coolly slotted past Delany into the bottom corner.
There is little time for recovery for the Drogs as they host Finn Harps at United Park in the first leg on Friday before travelling to Ballbofey for the second leg Friday week.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; John Ross Wilson, Derek Prendergast (David O’Sullivan 120), Reece McEnteer, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Mark Hughes, Alan Byrne, Karl Moore, Mark Hughes, Paddy Kavanagh (Shane Farrell, 101); Greg Moorhouse (Adam Evans, 69), James English
Subs: Lee Steacy, James Brown, Gavin Boyne, Dayle Rooney
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy (Gareth McCaffrey, H/T), Conor Kane, Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly; Sean Brennan, Jake Hyland (William Hondermarck, 39), Richie Purdy (Janabi Amour, 103), Mark Doyle; Chris Lyons.
Subs: Kealan Dillon, Lloyd Buckley, Robert Manley, Luka Gratzer
DroghedaUnited.ie Man of the Match: Chris Lyons