By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United will be looking to make home advantage count when they host Shelbourne in the first leg of the First Division promotion play-off on Friday, kick-off 7.45pm at United Park.
The Drogs clinched the final play-off spot on the final night of the season as they won 2-0 away to EA Sports Cup finalists Cobh Ramblers at St Colman’s Park.
Sean Brennan’s early penalty gave the Boynesiders a perfect start with Luke Gallagher’s second-half header sealing victory much to the relief of Drogs manager Tim Clancy.
“It was great to get over the line,” the Trim native explained Thursday morning. “Our backs were against the wall after the defeat to UCD but the players deserve enormous credit for winning two high pressure games.
“We have a very honest and hard working group of players and to make the play-offs is the least they deserve. Going away to Cobh on the final night of the season needing a win was hardly ideal but it was probably our most professional performance of the year.
“Obviously we hit a rough patch in the final round of games but to have won 49 points throughout the season is a really good return.”
Meetings between Drogheda and Shelbourne have been tight this season with the first two encounter’s ending in 1-1 draws before Sean Brennan struck an injury time winner when the sides last met in July.
With the second leg to come at Tolka Park on Monday, Clancy is eager to stress the need for patience in his side.
“It would obviously be great to have a lead going into the second leg but unless something crazy happens, the tie won’t be won or loss on Friday.
“The three games between us this season would suggest that there isn’t much between us and I’m expecting a similarly close game.
“I think we proved it once again against Longford a few weeks ago that we play our best football against the better sides and hopefully we can repeat that.
“We’ve worked hard since pre-season in January to be here and it’s up to the players now to seize this opportunity.”
Drogheda have no suspensions or injury concerns.