by Robert O'Reilly
In a game in which both sides felt they needed to win for different reasons, Drogheda United and Shelbourne played out a scoreless but entertaining draw at Hunky Dorys Park.
Drogheda ended a run of five consecutive defeats but will be disappointed not to take full advantage of a team that has won only two league games all season.
Mick Cooke made seven changes from the side that lined out to play Malmo FF last Thursday as Declan O’Brien was partnered in attack by Graham Rusk.
Bottom of the table Shelbourne gave first starts to goalkeeper Lee Murphy and striker Lee Murtagh having signed from Sheriff YC and Firhouse Clover respectively.
An energetic start from the visitors saw them put the ball in the net within the first minute; however, the linesman’s flag denied debutant Lee Murtagh after ex-Drogheda player Sean Brennan had picked out the striker.
Drogheda created their first opportunity on ten minutes as Jason Marks’ attempted cross found its way to Ryan Brennan but his 20 yard effort was tipped around the post by Lee Murphy.
Shels continued to mount pressure on the Drogheda goal and a misplaced pass from United Goalkeeper Michael Schlingermann gave Shels captain Glenn Cronin possession but his effort sailed over the bar.
Indeed, the Drogs seemed nervous on the ball and an under hit back pass from Derek Prendergast nearly played in Murtagh but Schlingermann denied him with a sliding challenge.
United’s record goal scorer Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien had thought he had given the home side the lead as he capitalised on indecision between Murphy and Ian Ryan but his lofted effort bounced narrowly wide.
It was Fabio again who tested the impressive Murphy in the second half as a clever pass from Shane Grimes played O’Brien in but with Graham Rusk nearby, O’Brien’s left footed effort was tipped over the bar for a corner.
Shels had a second goal ruled out on 64 minutes as Brian Shorthall’s cross was adjudged to have gone out of play before Mark Leech tapped in at the back post.
With five minutes to go, substitute Adam Hanlon then tested Schlingermann as a loose pass from David Cassidy was pounced upon and the midfielder’s driven effort was parried by the Drogheda stopper.
A dangerous delivery was headed wide by Michael Daly from inside the six yard box as Drogheda looked to steal the three points.
Despite five minutes of stoppage time, the sides could not be separated with a draw the result neither side were looking for.
As for Shels, they have closed the gap to four points on Bohemians above them while Drogheda’s attention will now turn to Sweden and their second leg clash at the Swedbank stadium.
Cathal Brady (Gavin Brennan 74’)
Graham Rusk (Peter Hynes 69’)
Jason Marks (David Cassidy 74’)
Robert Bayly (Stepehn Hurley 74’)
Darren Tinnelly (Adam Hanlon 59’)
Lee Murtagh (Craig Mooney 93’)