A second-half hat-trick from Danny North along with a strike from Kieran Marty Waters condemned a spirited Drogheda United to life in the 2016 SSE Airtricity League First Division, after they failed to match Limerick’s result on Friday evening at Tallaght Stadium.
In a game which Drogheda United knew a loss could condemn them to automatic relegation, it was the home side who were first to settle into their stride and Drogs keeper Michael Schlingermann was forced into an early save when he got down well to deny Brandon Miele who struck from the left edge of the box.
Despite being on the back foot for the majority of the opening quarter, Drogheda’s Sean Brennan forced Barry Murphy into a brilliant save after a corner from Sean Thornton was half cleared, the ball fell to the midfielder who struck from 25 yards. From the resulting corner, the Drogs grabbed the game's opening goal after Thornton’s delivery was headed towards goal by Alan Byrne, before Murphy pulled off a good save before Michael Daly slotted home the rebound from close range.
Less than sixty seconds later, however, Rovers drew level after a cross from the right by Gary McCabe, Byrne attempted to clear possession only for the ball to collide with Robert O’Reilly and sail into the Drogs net.
After drawing level, Rovers had an opportunity to take the lead soon after, but McCabe failed to trouble Schlingermann. With little over half an hour gone, the visitors restored their lead after a quick free-kick inside the Rovers half, Brennan found Tiarnan Mulvenna and he raced towards goal before firing a right footed shot from the left edge of the box past Murphy.
Despite falling behind for a second time, the home side failed to force Schlingermann into a save before the break with Brandon Miele having the hoops best effort, however, his shot from outside the box went harmlessly wide.
When the sides emerged from the dressing rooms, Drogheda knew if they held out for 45 minutes they would avoid automatic relegation and Mulvenna had an opportunity to extend their lead, but he failed to connect properly with a Daly cross.
Despite the early chance for the Drogs, the Louth outfit would soon find themselves on the back foot, first McCabe fired wide from edge of the box before McCabe was again involved, this time he forced a great save from Schlingermann after his thirty yard volley was plucked out of the corner by the keeper who was recently named in the PFAI Team of the Year.
With Rovers continuing to probe for a way back into the game, the Hoops were gifted an opportunity from the penalty spot after Conor Kenna was hauled down by Bryne before Danny North calmly slotted the spot kick down the centre.
As Limerick, continued to lead in the Showgrounds, Mulvenna looked for a way to get his side back into the game, but his volley from inside the box went high and wide. Despite Mulvenna’s best efforts, the home side continued to look dangerous going forward with both Miele and Madden having efforts, but both failed to find the target.
With the game approaching the last quarter, Drogheda’s faith appeared to be sealed when Danny North tapped home from close range for his second after Miele forced a fantastic save from Schlingermann.
Despite finding themselves at the bottom of the league for the first time due to results elsewhere, Thornton though he’d got his side an instant response, but after some neat control he turned and shot but his effort went agonisingly wide of Murphy’s goal.
Minutes later, second-half sub Marty Waters was next to get on the scoresheet after a nice ball from Mikey Drennan found the winger who made no mistake from the edge of the box. Despite falling two goals behind approaching additional time, Drogheda were not finished yet Lee Duffy, only on the pitch less than twenty minutes, fired home a spectacular close range volley. With the clock gone into added time, Rovers completed the scoring after North completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Drennan was hauled to the ground by Daly.
Shamrock Rovers:Barry Murphy (GK): Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, David O’Connor, Luke Byrne: Gary McCabe, Pat Cregg (Michael Drennan 66), Stephen McPhail (Ryan Brennan 83), Damien Duff (Kieran Marty Waters 80): Brandon Miele, Danny North
Subs Not Used: Craig Hyland (GK), David Webster, Dylan Kavanagh, Gareth McCaffrey
Booked: Cregg (63), Kenna
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingermann (GK): Michael Daly, Mark Hughes, Alan Byrne, Robert O’Reilly, Jason Marks: Tiarnan Mulvenna, Sean Thornton (Keith Treacy 61), Sean Brennan (Liam Donnelly 78), Adam Whelan (Lee Duffy 71): Ger Pender
Subs Not Used: Robert Kenna, Robert Bayley, Mark O’Brien, Sam McGowan
Booked: Brennan (42), Byrne (53)
Sent off: Thornton (90+1)
Match Referee: David McKeon
Attendance: 2,000 (estimate)
Extratime Man of the Match: Danny North (Shamrock Rovers)