Bottom club Shelbourne picked up a sought-after Airtricity League Premier Division point as they held Europa League contenders Drogheda United to a 0-0 draw at a hot and sunny Hunky Dorys Park.
A much-changed Drogheda side nearly conceded inside 45 seconds when Sean Brennan ran onto a through-ball and set up Lee Murtagh who slotted past keeper Micheal Schlingermann from an offside position.
But for long spells in the first half the Boynesiders dominated, without ever testing Shels stopper Lee Murphy, and when they finally found a route to the net Brian Gannon’s effort also fell foul of the linesman’s flag.
Gannon and Declan O’Brien finally tested Shels keeper Lee Murphy in quick succession just after half-time, but even after introducing some of their frontline players in the final quarter Drogheda couldn’t find a way through a dogged Shelbourne defence.
Mindful of next Thursday’s European game in Sweden, Drogheda manager Mick Cooke made seven changes from the team that held Malmo in the first leg and nearly paid the price inside the first minute.
Glen Cronin’s ball over the top was collected by Sean Brennan and the Drogheda native advanced into the box before teeing up Murtagh for an easy tap-in, but the newly-signed striker was clearly offside.
Ryan Brennan registered the home side’s first shot at goal in the 11th minute, forcing Lee Murphy into a good save low down to his right.
However, Shels were a match for their hosts at this stage and Glen Cronin went close with a stinging 35-yard effort before Darren Tinnelly warmed the hands of Drogs 'keeper Schlingermann.
Gradually Drogheda gained the upper hand and in an eight-minute spell they created five goal opportunities.
Declan O’Brien (twice), McNally and Brennan all missed the target, however, and when Gannon rolled the ball to the net the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
Gannon tested Shels keeper Murphy six minutes into the second half as the Boynesiders continued to probe, and two minutes later the netminder made an ever better stop to deny O’Brien from point-blank range.
Shels thought they had scored when Mark Leech blasted home from a Sean Brennan cross, but the assistant referee ruled that the ball had gone over the endline and seconds later Murphy was In action at the other end to save a glancing O’Brien header.
By the 75th minute Peter Hynes, Gavin Brennan and David Cassidy had all come on as Drogheda looked for the breakthrough, but apart from a diving header by Michael Daly which flew narrowly wide the hosts couldn’t engineer a clear-cut chance and Shels held out for a hard-earned draw.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Micheal Schlingermann; Michael Daly, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady (Gavin Brennan 75min), Graham Rusk (Peter Hynes 69min), Brian Gannon, Ryan Brennan, Jason Marks (David Cassidy 75min); Declan O’Brien.
Subs not used: Philip Hand, Paul O’Conor, Alan Byrne, Gabriel Sava.
SHELBOURNE: Lee Murphy; Brian Shortall, Pat Flynn, Graham Gartland, Ian Ryan; Sean Brennan, Robert Bayly (Stephen Hurley 75min), Glen Cronin, Darren Tinnelly (Adam Hanlon 58min); Mark Leech, Lee Murtagh (Craig Mooney 90 +3min).
Subs not used: Adam O’Connor, Robert Cornwall, Stephen Sheerin, Niall Burdon.
Referee: Dave McKeon (Meath).