Brendan Graham at Head in the Game Park
A 95th minute Danny Mandroiu header saw the Hoops take maximum points in a hard fought battle with Drogheda United.
Changes were made by both managers for the game with Stephen Bradley bringing in Dylan Watts, Sean Hoare, Gary O’Neill and Rory Gaffney with Drogheda starting Luke Heeney, Ryan O’Shea and 19-year-old Killian Phillips making his competitive debut for the club.
It was Rovers who made the better start to the game with Finn and O’Neill busy in the middle probing their way up the pitch in search of that final pass.
Aaron Greene went close on ten minutes after some build up play with O’Neill and Watts. Watt’s looping cross was met by Greene at the back post but he couldn’t quite get his effort on target.
Drogheda had a fantastic chance to take the lead with 15 minutes on the clock. Mark Doyle robbed the ball off Sean Kavanagh in the middle of the park. Doyle took off like a light towards goal once he got the ball to his feet. His attempted pass across the box for Chris Lyons was intercepted well by a crucial touch from Lopes to avert the danger.
Daniel O’Reilly’s commanding presence had to be called upon twice in a matter of minutes on the half hour mark first from Rory Gaffney clearing off the line and moments later he somehow managed to put the unmarked Sean Gannon off enough to see his effort sail off target.
Both defences were on top in the second half with chances hard to come by.
Substitute Graham Burke did brilliantly well to force a last ditch save from Colin McCabe as the game entered the final ten minutes. Burke swung at the ball on the edge of a box flooded with players. His speculative effort found its way through to McCabe who had to react at the last second to make the save.
As the game entered the final five minutes Rovers pushed hard for the winner. A Sean Hoare near post flick was followed moments later off a Watts cross that flashed right across the face of goal but there was no green and white hooped shirt there to capitalise.
Amazingly as the clocked ticked into the 95th minute Danny Mandroiu headed home a Dylan Watts corner at the back post to win the game for the reigning champions with the last kick of the game.
Drogheda United: Colin McCabe; James Brown, Daniel O’Reilly, Hugh Douglas, Dane Massey; Gary Deegan, Killian Phillips, Luke Heeney (Darragh Markey 76), Ryan O’Shea; Chris Lyons (Brandon Bermingham 69), Mark Doyle.
Subs not used: David Odumosu, Charles Mutawe, Ronan Murray, James Clarke, Mohammad Boudiaf, Jordan Adeyemo.
Booked: Mark Doyle (70), Luke Heeney (70).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Liam Scales, Roberto Lopes, Sean Hoare, Sean Kavanagh (Lee Grace 70), Sean Gannon; Ronan Finn (Daniel Mandroiu 70), Gary O’Neill (Chris McCann 58), Aaron Greene, Dylan Watts; Rory Gaffney (Graham Burke 64).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Aidomo Emakhu, Max Murphy, Darragh Nugent, Dean Williams.
Booked: Dylan Watts (55) Roberto Lopes (70).