(Credit: Colin O'Donoghue)
Two first half goals saw Shamrock Rovers ease to a 2-0 win over Drogheda United and see the gap between second and third closed to two points.
After some sustained pressure the visitors opened the scoring on 16 minutes. Gary McCabe broke down the left wing and managed to squeeze a ball across the by-line but Sava hesitated and forced Prendergast to clear behind. From the corner McCabe delivered a pin-point cross which saw the former Student rise highest to meet and leave Sava no chance.
After being denied just a few minutes previously, Ronan Finn finally breached the Drogheda defence, Sean Brennan lost the ball to Gary McCabe who picked out Gary Twigg and the striker played through the menacing midfielder who finished into the bottom corner, leaving Sava no chance.
Both sides had made two changes to their starting line-ups from the previous game. Mick Cooke had the luxury of starting a refreshed Alan McNally while Stephen Kenny dropped Killian Brennan in favour of Chris Turner and started Ciaran Kilduff in place of Tommy Stewart.
The home side never got going in the first half and were restricted to mainly Gavin Brennan frees or deliveries. The best effort for Drogheda game on 12 minutes when Jansson failed to clear properly giving the Boynesiders a springboard in the Rovers half. From the resultant throw in Sean Brennan fired a deflected shot at goal which was deflected behind for a corner. Gavin Brennan then played a menacingly inviting ball across the face of goal which Prendergast was mere centimetres off reaching.
But it was all one way traffic as McCabe and Finn tortured the Drogheda back four. Five minutes before the goal Rovers had two solid chances, McCabe fired in an effort from the edge of the box which took a deflection but Sava managed to re-adjust and get his body behind. Then Finn forced the Italian into a diving save as he had a pop from 25 yards out. Twigg had also gone close as Sava spilled a Chris Turner shot into the path of the Scotsman but he reacted too late and fired his effort wide.
Chris Turner was sent off for a straight red on 69 minutes for an off the ball incident with Paul Crowley and this seemed to spark life into the hosts, but they just couldn’t find that killer ball. Craig Sives seemed impenetrable and once again the Boynesiders were restricted to firing balls into the box and hoping for the best.
Despite dominating the final 15 minutes the Boynesiders still couldn’t break down the visiting defence. Several wild shots by John Sullivan didn’t help matters either. To compound a truly miserable night for the home side when they were reduced to ten men on 89 minutes as Derek Prendergast brought down Killian Brennan and was shown a second yellow card before the red.
Although Drogheda remain in second it will be the manner of the defeat which will play most on Mick Cooke’s mind as they simply weren’t up to the pace of the visitors who are finally looking like the Premier Division Champions, although this vein of form might be coming too late for them to threaten Sligo Rovers.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Stephen Quigley; Sean Brennan (Cathal Brady 83), Paul Crowley, Alan Byrne (John Sullivan 57), Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien, Peter Hynes (Tiarnan Mulvenna 69).
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann, Ryan Brennan, Eric Foley, Jason Marks.
Booked: G Brennan (27), A Byrne (54), Crowley (61), Mulvenna (71), Prendergast (89)
Sent off: Prendergast (89).
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Kerrea Gilbert, Craig Sives, Colin Hawkins, Conor Powell; Gary McCabe (Billy Dennehy 72), Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Chris Turner; Ciaran Kilduff (Thomas Stewart 89), Gary Twigg (Killian Brennan 68).
Subs Not Used: Reyaad Pieterse, Conor McCormack, Ken Oman, Daryl Kavanagh.
Booked: Rice (20), Gilbert (78), Hawkins (81).
Sent off: Turner (60).
Referee: Damien Hancock.
Man of the Match: Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers).
P.J. generally covers Drogheda games at HD Park and can generally be found at any Dublin ground when of a loose end on a Friday night.