The first opening fell to new Rovers hero Gary Twigg but he headed Sean O’Connor’s left wing cross straight at Stephen Williams. The ever eager Stephen Rice was booked on 16 minutes for a late challenge as the game developed some spice. Williams then produced the save of the match when, following a long throw, he kept out O’Connor’s powerful drive. The throw was flicked on by Dessie Baker to the young winger who blasted a right foot volley that Williams did brilliantly to parry behind for a corner. Rovers were on top through the first half but with first choice midfielders Bradley and Robinson missing they lacked a creative spark.
Things livened up considerably near the end of the half. Drogheda having rarely threatened the Rovers goal had 2 excellent chances in the space of a minute. A driven cross by Gavin Whelan was inches too high for an unmarked Shane Barrett. A minute later a powerful shot from James Chambers, who was played in by the impressive Jamie Duffy, was fisted away by Rovers’ keeper Barry Murphy. Rovers got the break through on the stroke of half time. Following a corner O’Connor’s miss-hit shot was poked in by the man with the golden touch Gary Twigg for his 11th goal in 14 league games. On the balance of play it was harsh on a hard working Drogheda as they had equal opportunities.
The second half started with an overspill of aggression. Rice lost control of the ball and was fouled by a crunching tackle from Paul Shields. The incensed Darragh Maguire pushed Shields which brought most of the players into a mêlée. Rovers should have doubled their advantage after 52 mins. Substitute Tadhg Purcell won the ball and played in Dessie Baker whose initial shot was saved by Williams but the rebound was blocked by the arm of Alan McNally. Williams showed his class again when he saved the resulting penalty from O’Connor, the keeper guessing correctly by diving to his right and diverting the ball out for a corner. Drogheda nearly made Rovers pay immediately when Shane Barrett shot just over following a break away down the left flank.
Twigg had another chance when he blasted a violet left foot shot that was parried by Williams and by now it was all Rovers. Padraig Amond came on for Baker and had an immediate effect. His run and pass played in Twigg but yet again Williams was off his line quickly to block. Williams was keeping his side in the match and almost inevitably he was rewarded. A simple ball over the top appeared to offer no threat but the normally solid Aiden Price hesitated badly while waiting for his Keeper to clear the ball. Murphy however stayed on his line and to the delight of the Drogheda fans Duffy nipped in to shoot into the far corner. Throughout the second half as chance after chance went a begging the Hoops faithful grew increasingly frustrated and this boiled over into anger as 2 points were squandered so late on.
Despite Rovers continuing their impressive run to only 1 defeat in 10 games they will be very disappointed as this was a match they really should have won. They can now reflect on 4 points dropped to the Louth men and 5 dropped against Bray, the bottom two clubs. Drogheda continue their improved form and will feel that they deserved some luck having lost last week to a 95th minute goal away to Bohemians. Rovers will face Dundalk on Tuesday night in a match they will feel they have to win to keep within touching distance of the top three.
Extratime.ie man of the match; Only one candidate, Drogheda Goal keeper Steve Williams had a tremendous night making countless saves including one from the penalty shot and ultimately that proved crucial.
Shamrock Rovers; 4-4-2. Murphy; Madden (Purcell 46), Maguire, Price, Cahill; Flynn, Rice(capt), Cameron, O’Connor; Twigg, Baker(Amond’72). Subs no used, McGill, Treacy, Duggan(gk).
Drogheda United; 4-4-2. Williams; Ryan, Kenna, McNally, Clarke(Osbourne 76); Sheils, Whelan(O’Connor 61), Chambers, Duffy; Martin, Barrett. Subs not used, Skinner, Salmon, King.