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Drogheda United withstood an injury time onslaught to secure a point against Shamrock Rovers on Friday evening. Draws have become the status quo for both sides in recent weeks and Friday night was no different as the sides played out a 1-1 in front a decent crowd at Tallaght Stadium.
The Louth side dominated the early exchanges and should have taken the lead on 10 minutes when ex-Rovers man Gary O’Neill’s cross from the right found Ryan Brennan in acres of space, his header sailed wide of the right hand post.
Rovers, minus numerous defensive options through injury, did not heed the warning and four minutes later paid the price for their looseness in defence. A looping cross from left back Shane Grimes was met by the unmarked Paul O’Conor six yards out and he made no mistake despite the best efforts of Richard Brush in the Rovers goal.
A restless home crowd, starved of wins this season, were almost dealt a further blow when Brush’s botched clearance landed at the feet of Ryan Brennan, his decision to take a touch proved costly as his shot couldn’t trouble the Rovers keeper.
Rovers needed a spark and that came from the lively Karl Sheppard. After great work up the left he saw his attempted cross blocked for a corner. From the set piece the Hoops executed a training ground move to perfection with Sean O’Connor finding Ronan Finn 22 yards out, Finn’s low rifled shot beat Gabriel Sava to level things up at 1-1.
The home side tried to seize the initiative and on 26 minutes, after a corner and numerous crosses, Sheppard couldn’t steer his header past Sava, before seeing the danger averted.
The visiting side weren’t going away and after O’Neil was fouled skeptically close to the inside of the box, Eric Foley could only curl the free kick over the crossbar.
The Louth side should have gone in ahead at break, Gavin Brennan raced clear on the left and his low cross found David Cassidy six yards out who managed to blaze over for what has to be a candidate for ‘miss of the season’ so far.
The second half failed to deliver on the promise of the first 45. Rovers dominated possession for long periods but failed to create clear cut chances.
Gavin Brennan had a chance for the visitors when he volleyed Brian Gannon’s cross, but it was blocked and cleared by the Rovers defence.
A James Chambers free kick from the edge of the box cannoned back off the wall and his second attempt sailed well over Sava’s crossbar.
Drogheda could have taken an unlikely lead on 85 minutes when a mix up between Brush and McCormack saw the left back head the ball over the keepers head. The onrushing Jason Marks looked to have an empty net to tap into, but realizing the Rovers cover, he turned back inside before seeing his goalbound shot blocked by McCormack.
As the game entered injury time, Rovers had three quick chances which should have sealed their second victory of the season. Firstly centre half Derek Foran, ala Lionel Messi, dummied two oncoming Drogheda players, before firing a left footed shot from 20 yards which hit the foot of the post.
A minute later a Foran knockdown found Quigley eight yards out, his half volley was expertly saved by Sava. But the home side were to have one more chance and that again fell to substitute Quigley, he found himself on the end of a threaded ball from Gary McCabe, but blazed his left footed shot over from 8 yards.
As the crowd filtered out of Tallaght ‘To win just once’ was blared on the loud speakers around the stadium. An echo of the thoughts of Hoops manager Trevor Croly and the Rovers support as they await their second win of the campaign.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Conor Powell, Derek Foran, Pat Sullivan (c), Conor McCormack; Stephen Rice, James Chambers, Ronan Finn; Sean O’Connor (Mark Quigley 47), Tommy Stewart (Gary McCabe 67), Karl Sheppard (Ciaran Kilduff 79).
Subs not used: Conor Winn, Shane Robinson, Billy Dennehy, Danny Ledwith.
Booked: Sullivan (32), Chambers (49), Rice (50), Foran (69).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne, Derek Prendergast (c), Shane Grimes; Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy (Declan O’Brien 65), Eric Foley, Paul O’Conor, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neil (Jason Marks 80).
Subs not used: Stephen Quigley, Philip Hand, Alan McNally, Peter Hynes, Dean Gaynor.
Booked: Sava (40), R Brennan (49)
Referee: Graham Kelly.
Attendance: 2,800 (est)
Extratime Man of the Match: Gabriel Sava (Drogheda United) - The Drogs keeper was solid throughout and a crucial injury time save to ensure the draw.