Report: Ryan McMullen

Two stunning second-half strikes earn Rovers all three points on the road in Drogheda.

As Rovers looked to erase last Friday’s home defeat to Shelbourne from their memory, Head Coach Stephen Bradley named a starting XI with five changes from that game. Lee Grace came in and captained the team with Pico Lopes absent due to suspension. Cory O’Sullivan slotted in at left wing-back, making his first league start after Trevor Clarke picked up a knock against Shels. Aaron Greene, Aaron McEneff and Conan Noonan were also drafted into the eleven as Dan Cleary, Josh Honohan and Jack Byrne all unavailable due to injury.

Notably, the Hoops named a young bench as well – with two 16-year-olds in James Roche and Ade Solanke listed among the substitutes, with the returning Dylan Watts and Richie Towell too taking their place to provide some much-needed experience and relief from the lengthy injury list.

Bradley’s side played with their usual three at the back, although because of injuries, Darragh Nugent and Markus Poom had to step into an unfamiliar role at centre-half, either side of captain Lee Grace.

Graham Burke had an early sight on goal when a poor clearance from Drogheda goalkeeper Andrew Wogan fell at the feet of the 30 year old, but the playmaker failed to generate enough height on his effort to capitalise.

Conan Noonan would come close minutes later when he drove inside the box from the right before releasing a strike that forced Wogan to get down low on his left-hand side and make a stop.

On the 25th minute, midfielder Aaron McEneff was inches away from sending a well-hit effort from a long way out, into the top right corner. A let-off for the hosts.

Down the other end, Darragh Markey had a pop from the edge of the box – he put too much power on the ball – and failed to keep it below the crossbar.

The Hoops came close to breaking the deadlock before the break when youngster Cory O’Sullivan slid a pin-point ball over the top into the path of Aaron Greene who rolled it back to Burke, but he steered just wide of the right post

Despite Rovers being in full control of possession for the majority of the first 45 minutes, the score remained level when the referee’s whistle blew for the break.

Although not long after the resumption in play, the Hoops would find themselves ahead. A superb pass played through a gap in the Drogheda defence by Greene found the feet of Johnny Kenny, who found himself in a dangerous position inside the box, and made no mistake as he fired past Wogan into the corner of the net for his eighth of the season.

And Rovers lead was doubled minutes later. On the right, Farrugia fed Burke just inside the box, the number 10 opened his body before curling a beautiful shot into the top left corner, leaving Wogan with no chance.

Some nice link-up play from the Hoops almost resulted in a third goal when Noonan played a slip pass into the path of Greene who teed up Kenny who skewed wide but the flag was raised for an earlier offside.

Drogheda looked to respond and had three chances in quick succession to cut the deficit in half. The first came when Adam Foley skipped past Poom and found himself with plenty of space on the right flank, the 34-year-old drove forward before delivering a cross into the box which was met by Pierrot – but his glancing header fell wide of the left post.

Foley had an opportunity himself after getting on the end of a ball from Evan Weir on the left, he headed upwards and saw the ball fly over the frame of the goal.

Shortly after, Weir and Foley linked up well again with Weir swinging a cross towards Foley at the right post, but this time he forced goalkeeper Leon Pohls to make himself big and knock the ball away with his leg – however, it only went as far as the incoming Luke Heeney – he squandered his rebound in the end.

There was confusion at Weavers Park when Drogheda ‘keeper Andrew Wogan handled outside the penalty area attempting to take a kick out. After consulting with his linesman, referee Rob Harvey deemed no foul to have been committed much to the bemusement of everyone from a Hoops persuasion.

Noonan had two attempts on goal in quick succession as he looked to get on the scoresheet for the first time this season, but the 21-year-old failed to keep both attempts on target.

The Hoops fought hard and were able to withstand some late pressure posed by Drogheda in the dying stages to secure a welcome clean sheet and important three points on the road.

Postponements to two previously scheduled fixtures mean Rovers aren’t in action for another thirteen days. A clash with St Patrick’s Athletic is next in line for Bradley’s team, that match takes place on Thursday 13th June at Richmond Park, with kick-off set for 7:45 pm.

Drogheda United: Wogan, Heeney (Quinn 75’), Keaney, Cann, Weir (Kane 85’), Gallagher (O’Brien 85’), Deegan ©, Foley (Brennan 75’), Markey, Bawa, Pierrot (Cailloce 85’).

Drogheda United unused substitutes: Barr, Webster, Topcu, Byrne.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls, Nugent, Grace ©, Poom, Farrugia (Towell 67’), C O’Sullivan, Noonan, McEneff (Barrett 86’), Burke (Watts 75’), Greene, Kenny (Dillon 86’).

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Steacy, Leitis, Roche, J O’Sullivan, Solanke.

Referee: Rob Harvey