Macdara Ferris reports from Head in the Game Park
Shamrock Rovers made it eight wins in a row in all competitions with a 1-0 win in Drogheda to move the champions back three points clear of St. Patrick’s Athletic at the top of the table with a game in hand.
Aaron Greene was the match winner in the second half in a game that the Hoops dominated even if they allowed Drogheda come back into late on.
With one eye on their massive Europa Conference League play-off next week, Hoops Head Coach made six changes from the team that won 2-0 away in Albania on Thursday.
Tim Clancy – who was suspended and watched the game from the TV gantry – made three changes as he looked to arrest his team’s run of three straight league defeats - bringing in Jordan Odeyemo, James Clarke and Joe Redmond.
He deployed his defence in a back three but it was a more of a back five due to the pressure the Hoops put on the home team with the Drogs second best in the opening half.
The Hoops dominated the first 45 minutes racking up seven Danny Mandroiu corners and David Odumosu was tested on a number of occasions. When the ball did beat the 'keeper early in the game the ball bounced back off the post to safety.
The home ‘keeper had to bat away a dipping Richie Towell effort from 30 yards and he was thankful that Graham Burke’s shot midway through the half hit a defender in front of him.
Jordan Adeyemo kept Pico Lopes on his toes at the centre of Rovers’ back three as the Drogs looked to hit their striker early in space when they turned over the ball on a couple of occasions. One lovely timed Lopes touch stopped a one-on-one situation with Alan Mannus arising.
Mannus pushed away a well struck Adeyemo shot three minutes before the break but the offside flag was up.
Just before the half time whistle, Burke forced Odumosu into a full length save to keep his team’s clean sheet at the break.
The one way traffic continued after the break with Liam Scales showing great feet in front of the United box to feed Towell who again tested Odumosu from distance on 53 minutes.
The opener came a minute later as Mandroiu and Burke opened up the Drogs defence allowing Aaron Greene to tap home his fifth of the season inside the six yard box off Burke’s low drilled cross.
The Drogs heads didn’t drop though and new blood off the bench – particularly through Mark Doyle who has eight goals for the season – began to put pressure on the Hoops.
There was a massive penalty shout when Sean Hoare blocked Doyle’s drilled cross and Chris McCann was well placed to head clear a chance from in front of Alan Mannus from the resulting corner kick.
Rovers had their own big shout for a peno when substitute Dylan Watts went down in the box but again referee Ray Matthews waved play on.
The Hoops hung on after United upped the tempo in the closing period but the home team couldn’t find the equaliser as Rovers kept their fourth clean sheet in a row in all competitions and will travel to Tallinn for Thursday European tie full of confidence.
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; Dane Massey (Dinny Corcoran 81), Daniel O'Reilly, Joe Redmond (Ronan Murray 64); James Brown, Jake Hyland (c), Gary Deegan (Luke Heeney 81), James Clarke (Darragh Markey 56), Killian Phillips, Conor Kane,; Jordan Adeyemo (Mark Doyle 56).
Subs not used: Colin McCabe, Charles Mutawe, Mohammad Boudiaf, Sam O'Brien.
Booked: Gary Deegan (49), Jake Hyland (67), Ronan Murray (67).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Roberto Lopes, Liam Scales; Sean Gannon; Chris McCann, Richie Towell (Gary O'Neill 76), Sean Kavanagh,; Daniel Mandroiu (Rory Gaffney 69), Aaron Greene, Graham Burke (Dylan Watts 68).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Joey O'Brien, Lee Grace, Ronan Finn, Aidomo Emakhu, Max Murphy.
Referee: Ray Matthews.
extratime.com Player of the Match: Liam Scales (Shamrock Rovers)