By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United ended a run of six-straight defeats with a dramatic 2-1 win over Shamrock Rovers at United Park.
The hosts had taken the lead through Sean Thornton’s first-half penalty before a controversial spot-kick award for Rovers in the 89th minute saw Graham Burke level with Sean Brennan sent off for dissent.
There was to be one final twist though as a free-kick deep into stoppage time was headed goalwards by substitute Ryan McEvoy with the rebound bundled over his own line by Burke to send the home fans into raptures.
Drogheda United manager Pete Mahon made three changes from the side that lost 3-1 to Dundalk last week as Kevin Farragher, Jake Hyland and Mark Doyle started in place of Ciaran McGuigan, Sean Brennan and Marc Griffin.
A high press from Drogheda resulted in the first chance of the game as Gareth McCaffrey robbed Simon Madden of the ball before finding Thornton who dragged his shot narrowly wide.
Rovers began to settle into the contest and they came close to opening the scoring as Roberto Lopez connected with Ronan Finn’s corner-kick but he headed wide at the near post.
A long ball forward out of defence caused havoc in the Drogheda penalty area with Burke knocking the ball beyond the advancing Stephen McGuinness though David McAllister’s goal-bound strike was miraculously cleared off the line by Colm Deasy.
Drogheda took the lead on the 33rd minute as Thornton was bundled over from behind in the penalty area and the former Sunderland man made no mistake in sending Rovers keeper Tomer Chencinski the wrong way.
Despite falling behind, Rovers struggled to create clear-cut chances as the half came to a close with long-distance strikes from Trevor Clarke and Burke the closest they came to testing McGuinness.
The Hoops biggest threat came down the left through Clarke but the winger should’ve done better on the hour mark as he fluffed his lines from Madden’s pinpoint pass.
Rovers carried little threat despite enjoying the majority of possession with Drogheda’s tireless front two of Doyle and McCaffrey denying them the time and space to play out from the back.
With time running out, Rovers were in desperate need of a lifeline and they were handed one by referee Rob Rogers who adjudged Farragher to have brushed Shaw off balance in the penalty area.
Incensed by the decision, Drogs captain Sean Brennan was dismissed for his protests before Burke calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner to surely earn the Hoops a share of the spoils.
From the kick-off, Drogheda earned a free-kick 35-yards out to the right of goal. Thornton’s dangerous delivery was met by the head of substitute McEvoy who was denied by Chencinski only for the loose ball to cannon back over the line off Burke for the most unlikely of winners.
With five minutes of stoppage time still to be played, Rovers piled players forward in search of an equaliser and they were denied at the death as Stephen McGuinness produced a fine save to parry Sean Boyd’s strike away from goal and ensure all three points.
The win marks Drogheda’s first home league victory over Shamrock Rovers in 12 years and they will be looking to build on this morale boosting win when they face Limerick at the Markets Field next Saturday.
Drogheda United: Stephen McGuinness; Colm Deasy, Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher, Stephen Dunne; Gavin Brennan (Sean Brennan 39’), Sean Thornton, Richie Purdy, Jake Hyland; Mark Doyle (Thomas Byrne 85’), Gareth McCaffrey (Ryan McEvoy 90’)
Subs not used: Ryan Coulter, Adam Wixted, Conor Kane, Jamie Hollywood
Shamrock Rovers: Tomer Chencinski; Simon Madden, Roberto Lopez (Darren Meenan 67’), Danny Devine, David Webster: Ronan Finn, Samuel Bone (James Doona 76’), David McAllister (Sean Boyd 61’); Trevor Clarke, Graham Burke, Gary Shaw
Subs not used: Kevin Horgan, Brandon Miele, Luke Byrne, Dean Dillon
DroghedaUnited.ie Man of the Match: Mark Doyle