Another week. Another draw. Another prompt for Mick Cooke to reasess his aspirations for the league season ahead as Drogheda United fell further behind the pack with a 1-1 draw away to Shamrock Rovers tonight.
In the grand scheme of things, though, Cooke and Drogheda will reflect on this evening’s result as one point earned rather than two lost and the Boynesiders were made work hard to earn it.
Rovers, also suffering from a sluggish start to the campaign, threw everything at Drogheda United in the latter stages hoping to snatch victory late on and, if not for the athleticism of goalkeeper Gabriel Sava to deny Mark Quigley at the death, the departing Rovers supporters have may had a tune other than ‘To Win Just Once’ usher them out of the stadium.
It was reference to Rovers’ solitary league victory thus far. It was equally applicable to the visiting team.
Drogheda started the brighter and should have gone ahead inside ten minutes but Ryan Brennan failed to steer his header goalbound after a good cross from Gary O’Neill.
The opportunity should have acted as a wake-up call to Rovers, but it didn’t. Paul O’Conor put Drogheda a goal to the good minutes later when he netted from close range following Shane Grimes’ cross. It was O’Conor’s first league goal for the club, though he failed to build on it and his performance faded.
Rovers immediately went in search of an equaliser and nearly found one when Sean O’Connor fired from long-range, beating Sava, but also the far post. It was a warning to Drogheda.
Trevor Croly did not have to wait long to see his team equalise. Ronan Finn, from Sean O’Connor’s corner, received the ball on the edge of the area before rifling past the helpless Sava in the Drogheda goal. 1-1.
Drogheda spurned a number of chances to go into half-time with the advantage. Eric Foley fired over after Gary O’Neill’s endeavour had won a free-kick at the edge of the area.
David Cassidy then could and should have scored. Gavin Brennan delivered an inch-perfect low cross into the Rovers box but the incoming Cassidy blazed over from close-range when it looked far easier to score.
The home team emerged from half time far stronger, far more motivated than they had been in the previous 45. Drogheda struggled to keep possession, while Rovers struggled to make the most of theirs.
It was a half of few chances, prompting the belief that if a chance was forged by either team, it had to be converted. It needed a hero, and Drogheda’s Jason Marks came within a whisker of adopting that role before Conor McCormack intervened and ensured Rovers would not emerge from the game empty-handed.
Derek Foran hit the post in the dying embers, before Mark Quigley was expertly denied by Sava.
It was not to be Rovers’ night as referee Graham Kelly blew for full time. Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke will be happier with the point, even if it is another backwards step in the Airtricity League of Ireland table.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Conor Powell, Derek Foran, Pat Sullivan ©, Conor McCormack; Stephen Rice, James Chambers, Ronan Finn; Sean O’Connor (Mark Quigley 47), Tommy Stewart (Gary McCabe 67), Karl Sheppard (Ciaran Kilduff 79).
Unused Subs: Conor Winn, Shane Robinson, Billy Dennehy, Danny Ledwith.
Yellow Cards: Sullivan (32), Chambers (49), Rice (50), Foran (69).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne, Derek Prendergast ©, Shane Grimes; Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy (Declan O’Brien 65), Eric Foley, Paul O’Conor, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neil (Jason Marks 80).
Unused Subs: Stephen Quigley, Philip Hand, Alan McNally, Peter Hynes, Dean Gaynor.
Yellow Cards: Sava (40), R Brennan (49)