Drogheda United defender Evan Weir equalised only to be sent off in the space of two minutes late on as a dour game with Shamrock Rovers ended level at Tallaght Stadium.

Aidomo Emakhu was sprung from the bench to give the sluggish league leaders a 79th minute lead.

Defeat would have been harsh on Drogheda who came to play and left-back Weir deservedly levelled on 87 minutes only to be dismissed for a second booking.

With five changes from their Champions League qualifier defeat in Bulgarian on Tuesday, Rovers started nervously, coughing up a couple of half chances to an eager Drogheda.

It was past the half hour before Drogheda goalkeeper Colin McCabe was tested, Graham Burke stinging his hands with a drive off his weaker right foot.

A promising move then came to nothing minutes before the interval, Aaron Greene laying off to Richie Towell who got under his shot that ballooned over the top.

As in the first, Drogheda began the second half on the front foot, carving an opening inside the first minute.

Adam Foley's low cross fell for ex-Hoop Dean Williams in the area. Rovers crowded him out well to block the shot.

Rovers then survived a right let off on the double two minutes later from Darragh Markey's corner. First Keith Cowan’s looping back post header was headed off the line by Burke with Roberto Lopes then deflecting Foley’s follow-up out for another corner.

Cowan then should have done much better when his diving header was way off target from Foley’s cross as Drogheda had Rovers on the rack.

Graham Burke battles with Evan Weir

Rovers continued to labour to build any momentum in the game.

Sean Kavanagh had a chance on the hour mark, though his shot was deflected for a corner off Foley after Andy Lyons had crossed from the end line.

Sensing there was very much something here for them, Drogheda continued to threaten with a string of corners, skipper Gary Deegan winning one with a 75th minute effort deflected out off Kavanagh.

Kavanagh would then be instrumental in creating Rovers' lead on 79 minutes.

Turning Georgie Poynton cleverly on the left, Kavangah whipped over a superb cross to the near post where Emakhu found the net with a bullet header.

The visitors didn’t lie down and levelled from their seventh corner of the second half.

With Rovers failing to clear, Markey's delivery broke for Weir who drilled a low shot to the net.

But Weir turned from hero to zero two minutes later, receiving a second yellow card and a red for a foul on Lyons.

In a hectic finish Emakhu might then have won it for Rovers four minutes into added time. Substitute Ryan Brennan got his body in the way to deflect the striker’s shot off target.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Gannon, Roberto Lopes (Sean Hoare 53), Sean Kavanagh; Neil Farrugia (Lee Grace 61), Gary O’Neill, Richie Towell (Rory Gaffney h-t), Andy Lyons; Graham Burke (Justin Ferijaz 72), Dylan Watts; Aaron Greene (Aidomo Emakhu 61).

Drogheda United: Colin McCabe; Georgie Poynton (Darragh Noone 83), Andrew Quinn, Keith Cowan, Evan Weir; Gary Deegan, James Clarke; Adam Foley (Ryan Brennan 71), Darragh Markey, Dayle Rooney (Dyaln Grimes 83); Dean Williams (Chris Lyons 74).

Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).