Drennan strike gives Rovers the edge
SHAMROCK ROVERS 1 - DROGHEDA UTD 0
EVEN days on from a great advertisement for the league in Cork, this was another chance for Shamrock Rovers to show they are ready to become a part of the title discussion again.
In the end, they did enough to get the result while leaving the impression that they remain a work in progress that will need to seriously improve to reach the consistent standard being set by Dundalk.
Pat Fenlon’s side remain unbeaten after this win which moves them within three points of the Lilywhites who play Bray on Monday.
The game of the weekend, a meeting of a revitalised Bohemians and Cork, has also been moved to the Bank Holiday by Setanta for live television purposes.
It gave an increased Friday profile to this encounter, a fixture which served to emphasise the disparity between the top and bottom half of the table in terms of the resources.
After dropping points in Limerick last weekend, Rovers avoided a banana skin here. Yet there was a complacency in aspects of their performance that troubled Fenlon, especially in the first half where they rode their luck courtesy of some casual defending and sloppiness in possession.
Indeed, they had just received a verbal volley from their frustrated manager when they grabbed the only goal in the 19th minute lead after a cross from Brandon Miele was missed by a posse of Drogheda defenders and stroked home by Mikey Drennan.
At that juncture, Drogheda boss John McDonnell had reason to feel aggrieved as his team had been sharper in the early exchanges. The problem is that they lacked the real quality around the park to capitalise on promising situations.
Having started their campaign with two wins, they are now without a win in nine. They had opportunities to seize the initiative with Carl Walshe firing into the side netting before Lee Duffy was spooked by the presence of Rovers keeper Craig Hyland who close down his advance on goal as Fenlon fumed.
Rovers did always look capable of slicing through the visiting rearguard when they raised the intensity with both Keith Fahey and Gavin Brennan giving Micheal Schlingermann some reason for concern prior to the interval.
Brennan was sharing a pitch with two of his brothers with Ryan wearing the Hoops and Sean back in Drogheda. The latter - twice off target from distance before the break - was left chewing grass after an aggressive challenge from Gavin reminded him this was business.
Drogheda’s task stiffened when they lost skipper Michael Daly to injury almost immediately after the resumption. They were already missing valuable seniority with key man Daryl Kavanagh unavailable and Sean Thornton suspended.
To their credit, however, they continued to work hard and keep a reasonable shape as Rovers failed to make any significant inroads with the natives growing slightly restless.
Fenlon sent in Gary McCabe on the hour mark and then withdrew holding midfielder Patrick Cregg and sent in Stephen McPhail with a view to adding further creativity.
They were still short of inspiration, though, and when Drennan wildly fired a 30 yarder over the bar it was a reflection that he was just grateful for a bit of room.
Drogheda didn’t look capable of levelling but the increasingly animated McDonnell never gave up hope. He let rip at his final sub, Robert O’Reilly, for not being fully ready when his manager was expecting to introduce him.
They were let down by poor touches when they meandered into space with another sub, Cathal Brady, overplaying a break that started when Rovers appealed for a handball outside the box from Schingermann at the other end.
Rovers did press on in the dying stages and Miele, a tidy youngster who is getting his career back on track following a stint at Newcastle, rattled the crossbar with a thunderbolt that stirred the crowd from their slumber.
They wiil soon forget this experience, even if six wins and five draws from the opening round of games hints at progress.
SHAMROCK ROVERS – Hyland, Madden, Kenna, Blanchard, D O’Connor; Cregg (McPhail 69), R Brennan; Miele, Fahey, G Brennan (McCabe 60); Drennan
DROGHEDA UNITED – SCHLINGERMANN, DALY (MCGOWAN 49), BYRNE, GORMAN, MARKS; DUFFY, HUGHES (O’REILLY 82), MAHER, WALSHE; BRENNAN (BRADY 72); MULVENNA
REF – S Grant (Wexford)