League Report: Drogheda United 1 – 1 Shamrock Rovers

Macdara Ferris reports Weavers Park

Shamrock Rovers ill-discipline cost them once again as nine man Hoops played out a dramatic 1-1 draw in Drogheda.

Just like last week in Sligo they led 1-0 going into the last quarter of the game through a Graham Burke goal only for a red card and a late equaliser to cost them the win. Ryan Brennan was the hero for the home side as his last minute goal cancelled outBurke’s first half strike.

United made their two man advantage count late on after Rovers lost Lee Grace to a red card in the 72nd minute and then Dan Cleary eight minutes later. Those sending offs – both for two yellow cards - ultimately proved very costly for the champions.

Injuries – to Sean Hoare and Sean Gannon (who did come off the bench late on) - and a suspension – Pico Lopes sitting out the first of his three match suspension after his red card last week - meant that Stephen Bradley deployed Gary O’Neill in the centre position in his back three with Lee Grace wearing the captain’s armband for the visitors.

His opposite number Kevin Doherty had to rejig his own defence early in the game following, after just a dozen minutes, Ben Curtis’ injury saw him replaced by Emmanuel Adeboyega who slotted in to Kevin Doherty’s back four.

The substitute did well having come on cold. He was able to sheppard the ball back to Colin McCabe as Markus Poom got forward into the United box and he also blocked and won the ball off Dylan Watts to get his team on the front foot.

The Drogs centre-half pairing were the busier defence in the first half with Conor Keeley always seeming to be well placed to stop Rovers shots or crosses. His efforts deflected the ball a number of times behind for corners that ultimately Jack Byrne couldn’t exploit in the first half for the Hoops.

The home side started and ended the half strongly – with Keeley getting a shot on target in first half injury time that forced Alan Mannus into a save.

However in between the opening and closing periods of the half the Hoops were the better team. Johnny Kenny had two great chances to get his first goal for the Hoops. The first in the 10th minute saw Colin McCabe close him down, stand up and push his effort around the post.

The second opportunity ten minutes later saw him miss a header after Byrne had whipped in an inviting cross from the left. Elicha Ahui had a good battle with Trevor Clarke who looked to pin United back on the left as he linked up with Graham Burke who also looked lively.

Frederick Draper and Adam Foley did see sight of goal but both times they couldn’t find the target leaving the game scoreless at the break.

The Hoops piled the pressure on after the break. Four minutes after the restart Burke’s low shot from the right clipped the butt of McCabe’s post. Twice Grace got on the end of Byrne corners and then McCabe once more thwarted Kenny who really should have put Rovers in front with his shot from inside the area.

The Drogs couldn’t hold out the Hoops for much longer though and it was from one of Byrne’s corner that Rovers took the lead in the 53rd minute. McCabe made a mess of trying to punch clear and when Draper looked to head away he only put it back across his own goal to where Burke was lurking at the back post to turn it home for his second of the season.

The home team didn’t buckle under the Hoops onslaught though and created pressure through a series of corners themselves on the hour mark, just before a slight delay while a drone hovered over the Weaver Park pitch.

Byrne found Grace yet again with a corner with the ball sitting up nicely for the defender whose shot bounced behind off the top of McCabe’s cross bar.

Just like last week the Hoops went down to ten men when leading 1-0 after Grace picked up his second yellow card and was sent to the dressingroom in the 72nd minute. Dayle Rooney’s resulting freekick hit the post and then Mannus and almost squirmed back over the line.

Incredibly Dan Cleary picked up two yellow cards in two minutes – the first for time wasting and the second for a foul on Ryan Brennan - and so the Hoops found themselves down to nine men with ten minutes of normal time to go.

With the two man advantage the Boynesiders pushed on for the equaliser and it came through a well struck shot from Ryan Brennan against his former club. Grimes had a golden chance in the fourth minute of injury time but he somehow couldn’t turn it home from close range.

Drogheda United: Colin McCabe; Elicha Ahiu, Ben Curtis (Emmanuel Adegboyega 12), Conor Keeley, Evan Weir (Warren Davis 86); Gary Deegan ©, Ryan Brennan; Darragh Markey; Adam Foley (Dylan Grimes 65), Freddie Draper, Dayle Rooney.
Subs not used: Fiachra Pagel, Jarlath Jones, Sean Brennan, Darragh Noone, Matthew O'Brien, Luke Heeney.
Booked: Ryan Brennan (7), Evan Weir (57), Emmanuel Adegboyega (58), Gary Deegan (83).

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Daniel Cleary, Gary O'Neill, Lee Grace ©; Neil Farrugia, Markus Poom, Dylan Watts (Rory Gaffney 85), Trevor Clarke; Jack Byrne (Darragh Nugent 81), Johnny Kenny (Richie Towell 85), Graham Burke (Sean Gannon 76).
Booked: Lee Grace (45 and 72), Daniel Cleary (78 and 80), Graham Burke (90), Alan Mannus (90), Trevor Clarke (90)
Sent off: Lee Grace (72), Daniel Cleary (80).

Referee: Sean Grant.
Attendance: 2,182
extratime.com Player of the Match: Ryan Brennan (Drogheda United)