By Ed Leahy at Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United played out a 1-1 draw in tonight’s Airtricity League Premier Division clash at Tallaght Stadium.
The two sides came into this fixture with nine draws between them from 12 games played and it was no surprise that another sharing of the spoils was the outcome.
Drogheda opened the scoring in the 13th minute when midfielder Paul O’Conor headed home from a deflected cross from the left.
Rovers equalised after 24 minutes when Ronan Finn smashed home a 25-yard effort from a well-worked corner kick but that was the way it would finish despite both sides missing chances to win the game.
Richard Brush made his first league start of the season replacing Barry Murphy in goal for the Hoops, while manager Trevor Croly kept faith in striker Karl Sheppard, leading the line after an impressive performance in midweek at Thomond Park.
Drogheda made two changes from the side that drew with Cork on Monday as Brian Gannon and Gavin Brennan came in for Stephen Quigley and Graham Rusk.
Mick Cooke’s side, the other draw specialists in this year’s campaign, arrived in Tallaght with intent and looked lively from the start, putting plenty of pressure on the Rovers midfield and back four.
And the deadlock was nearly broken in the 11th minute when striker Gary O’Neill pushed wide and managed to whip a great ball into the area.
Ryan Brennan was unmarked on the penalty spot and had a free header but the ball drifted inches past the post with the keeper beaten.
The opening goal arrived two minutes later and it was the visitors who took the lead as Drogheda left-back Shane Grimes drove a long ball into the box.
Midfielder Paul O’Connor timed his run into the box to perfection and he met the deflected cross with a header that proved too much for Brush who got a hand to the ball but it hit the back of the net.
With close to 20 minutes on the clock, Rovers were yet to threaten the visitors’ goal, and again Drogheda’s pressure nearly reaped rewards as Brush’s poor clearance found Ryan Brennan, whose shot was well struck but the keeper made amends to save.
Eventually Rovers moved up a gear and good pressure up front from Sheppard led to a corner kick in the 23rd minute.
The corner came straight from the training ground as Stephen Rice dragged his marker wide allowing Ronan Finn to run into the space on the edge of the box.
But the ball from Sean O’Connor’s corner still needed to be precise to find the advancing midfielder.
It was, and Finn unleashed an unstoppable drive to the bottom-left corner of the net leaving Gabriel Sava no chance diving to his right.
The goal lifted the home side and Rovers put more pressure on the Drogheda back four from a corner in the 28th minute.
The first cross flew dangerously across the goal but missed everyone, and the return into the box found Sheppard but there was no power in the striker’s header and the ball drifted wide.
And that dominance continued for the remainder of the half until the 43rd minute when a long ball played over Rovers right-back McCormack found the lively Gavin Brennan charging down the left wing.
Brennan’s delivery was inch perfect for the in-rushing Cassidy but the former Rovers midfielder managed to side-foot the ball over the bar when it looked easier to score and the sides went in level at half-time.
Mark Quigley made his entrance just after the break replacing Sean O’Connor who was carrying an injury into the game.
And Rovers made a much better start to the second half putting early pressure down the right hand side as Rice ran through into the box.
The Rovers midfielder appeared to be fouled as Byrne mistimed his tackle andRice appeared to stumble before falling in the area, but received a yellow card for simulation, which looked harsh on Rice who looked like he tried to stay on his feet.
The visitors felt the game was there for the taking and introduced a second striker in the 65th minute as Declan O’Brien replaced Cassidy.
And both sides were now going for it as the game opened up with lots of space being created but chances were few and far between.
Gary McCabe and Ciaran Kilduff were introduced by the home side but the quality was lacking in the final third as the sides could not be separated going into the last ten minutes.
And it was the visitors who almost grabbed the lead with four minutes remaining as McCormack header the ball back over the advancing Brush, who had charged out of his box.
Substitute Jason Marks ran onto the ball but was pushed wide by the recovering McCormack who blocked the shot from a difficult angle.
And then in injury time, centre-half Derek Foran tried to win it for the home side as he charged forward to unleash a great effort, which crashed off the post.
A minute later, Sava proved the hero for the visitors as he spread himself to block Quigley’s close-range effort.
Quigley had one final chance with the three minutes of injury-time played after he was put through by McCabe but he blasted over and Drogheda held on as the sides added yet another drawn game to this season’s statistics.
The home fans left the stadium to the sound of the Saw Doctors’ song ‘To Win Just Once’ playing over the Tallaght tannoy.
Perhaps next week.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Conor McCormack, Pat Sullivan, Derek Foran, Conor Powell; James Chambers, Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Sean O’Connor (Quigley 48), Tommy Stewart (Gary McCabe 67); Karl Sheppard (Ciaran Kilduff 80).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; David Cassidy (Declan O’Brien 65), Paul O’Connor, Ryan Brennan, Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neil (Jason Marks 82).
Referee: Graham Kelly.