A supreme second half display from Shamrock Rovers gave them a 3-0 victory over basement side Drogheda United at Tallaght stadium on Friday night.
Following a moving tribute to RTE and Shamrock Rovers legend, Philip Greene, the mood was set for table toppers Rovers to take on bottom of the league Drogheda and it wasn’t long before the hosts had their first chance when Gary O’Neill came agonisingly close to turning Ronan Finn’s cross into the net. However, Steven Trimble got down well in the United goal to gather the ball.
A second chance came just minutes later when Billy Dennehy made space down the left and, after making his way into the penalty area, shot narrowly past Trimble’s goal. It was all Rovers for the first twenty minutes as Drogheda only made it into Hoops territory on one occasion. And that time it was dealt with comfortably.
But despite their dominance the hosts failed to make it count on the scoreboard as with ten minutes left in the half the game remained scoreless. In fact, the visitors began to get some possession late in the half but failed to trouble Alan Mannus in the Rovers goal. Mannus’ biggest challenge was intercepting a low cross which he did with ease.
Rovers twice put the ball over with just minutes left to the break. First Chris Turner headed over from a corner then Gary McCabe found himself open in the box but his shot flew over too. The last meaningful action of the half saw Finn blast high and wide from twenty yards.
Rovers came out in the second half with a more lively approach and with just minutes gone Gary Twigg came close to troubling Trimble but his shot went just wide. Just one minute later, and with just three gone in the half, Craig Sives rose highest to head home Conor McCormack’s free kick and give the home fans the goal they were waiting for.
The goal gave Michael O’Neill’s side a renewed confidence and on 55 minutes they doubled their lead. McCabe got down the wing and drove a low cross towards Twigg who calmly slotted home past Trimble. Six minutes later it was three after a defensive mix up saw Trimble lose control and let Twigg through to find the back of the net for a second time as the floodgates started to open.
Rovers nearly made it four when a great ball from substitute Stephen Rice put Finn through. The midfielder made no mistake in beating Trimble but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Despite the three goal lead Karl Sheppard was introduced in place of Gary O’Neill as Rovers looked to push on to put the result beyond any doubt.
Drogheda were dealt a blow with seventy minutes gone when substitute Keith Murray was forced off after a clash with Rice who was subsequently booked.
Dennehy came close when he weaved past Victor Ekanem and shot low. However, this time Trimble was equal to the effort and forced it wide for a corner. Drogheda, for their part, never really looked like pulling one back and Rovers cruised home to a 3-0 win which keeps them top of the pile.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Conor McCormack, Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Enda Stevens; Gary McCabe, Chris Turner (Stephen Rice, 61), Ronan Finn, Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg (Ciaran Kilduff, 72), Gary O’Neill (Karl Sheppard, 66).
Subs not used: Pat Flynn, Dean Kelly, Paddy Kavanagh, Ryan Thompson.
Bookings: Rice (68), Gary McCabe (81), Ciaran Kilduff (86).
Drogheda United: Steven Trimble; Colin O’Brien, Philip Hand, Brian Gannon, Victor Ekanem; Stephen Quigley, Mark O’Brien, Stephen McCrossan, Darragh McNamara (Keith Murray, 66 (Robbie Gaul, 71)); David Freeman (Stephen Campbell, 81), Daniel Corcoran.
Subs not used: Sean Skelly, David Quirke, Cillian Thompson, Darragh Hanaphy.
Referee: Padraig Sutton.
Attendance: 2,500 (estimate).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary Twigg.