Wednesday 22 November 2017

Kilduff delivers killer blow as Hoops signal title intentions

Drogheda United 2 Shamrock Rovers 3

Shamrock Rovers' Ciaran Kilduff
Shamrock Rovers' Ciaran Kilduff

Garry Doyle

At the end the Shamrock Rovers fans sang about winning the league – a chorus which hasn't been heard around Tallaght for a couple of years.

Yet if the evidence of this game is to be trusted then it could be a sound we could hear a lot more of as summer approaches and Rovers' ascent up the Premier Division continues.

They were excellent here, not just in terms of how they played, more in the way they reacted to the problems Drogheda – and the game – presented them with.

On top early on, they were pegged back by Gavin Brennan's 24th-minute goal from the penalty spot and troubled by the effect the Drogheda scorer was having down the left-hand-side.

But they regrouped at half-time, tinkered with their tactics and scored two superb goals to secure the points and make a loud statement.

Home or away, they will be much harder to contain this year than they were last season.

Yet in this league, you always have to remember that nothing comes easily – even if the opening 15 minutes of this match suggested a Rovers victory would be straightforward enough.

At that stage they were rampant, utilising their formation, which was shaped around a midfield diamond, to great effect, darting passes across the park with effortless ease, engaging their full-backs in forward bursts.

One of these, on 10 minutes, nearly led to their opening goal when Stephen McPhail and Ronan Finn's quick thinking resulted in Finn picking out Sean Heaney, whose low shot had David Ryan scrambling across his goal and relieved to see it eventually veer wide.

Within two minutes, though, the Drogheda 'keeper was picking the ball out of his net after Finn collected Eamon Zayed's lay-off before drilling a powerful shot beyond Ryan and into his net.

A goal up and in complete control – you just couldn't envisage Drogheda coming back. Yet they did – equalising within 12 minutes, when Brennan converted a penalty which was awarded for Conor Kenna's foul on Gary O'Neill.

And they could have had more – Brennan hitting the crossbar with a looping header, O'Neill sending another header just over.

But Rovers stormed out of the traps at the start of the second half, getting their second goal of the game via Zayed, who headed home Simon Madden's cross on 51 minutes, after Kilduff had tidied up possession by sending the ball wide to the full-back's path.


Five minutes later the compliment was returned when Zayed, somewhat fortuitously, played a pass into Kilduff's path – which the striker duly controlled before shooting low past Ryan for the decisive goal of the game.

However, it wasn't the last one. With four minutes remaining, Philly Hughes – on as a substitute for Declan O'Brien – opportunistically pounced on a loose ball in the Rovers penalty area before firing low past Barry Murphy.

A hectic finale ensued as Drogheda left nothing in the tank in pursuit of a draw but Rovers stayed organised to hold on – something they rarely did last season but are making a habit out of this time.

Drogheda United – Ryan; Daly, Andrews, McNally, Grimes; Brady (Walshe 75), McGuigan, Maher (Croly 81), Brennan; O'Neill, O'Brien (Hughes 75).

Shamrock Rovers – Murphy; Madden, Kenna (Cornwall 74), McGuinness, Heaney (Byrne 46); Finn, McPhail, McCabe (Waters 67), Robinson; Zayed, Kilduff.

Ref – P Sutton (Clare)

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