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Rovers fall further off the title pace


Ronan Finn celebrates after scoring for Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.

Ronan Finn celebrates after scoring for Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.

Ronan Finn celebrates after scoring for Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.

With Shamrock Rovers there is always a heavy burden of expectancy. That is just a fact of life for the Hoops, but going into this match with five draws from their opening six games meant that even at this early stage of the campaign the stakes were piled high for Trevor Croly's charges.

Worryingly, the Hoops were flat, lacking the subtlety to unlock a Drogheda United outfit that grafted hard. There was an occasional flicker of ability from Ronan Finn, but Rovers weren't able to secure the win that they craved so badly.

A half-dozen stalemates in seven matches suggests Rovers aren't clinical or efficient and those who braved the Tallaght Stadium chill didn't see much evidence to the contrary. It was a poor performance from the Hoops coming nowhere near the drive and desire that had been demonstrated in Thomond Park on Tuesday.

Rovers commenced with Croly's preferred 4-3-3 formation – Sean O'Connor and Thomas Stewart were pushed high up the pitch to support central attacker Karl Sheppard, while Finn was given licence to roam.

In the 14th minute, Drogheda nicked a goal – Rovers being punished for a chronic lapse in concentration. Shane Grimes' left-wing cross was lofted with hope, but somehow Paul O'Conor was permitted to plant an uncontested header past Richard Brush.

Seeking a quick response, a cute Sean O'Connor corner was expertly controlled by Finn, who unleashed a drive that was powerful as it was precise and the Drogheda net danced. The Hoops were in a familiar place, back on level terms.

But they were lucky to still be trading at parity by the time the interval rolled around as Drogheda spurned a gilt-edged chance on 43. Gavin Brennan's left-wing cross was inviting, but David Cassidy failed to supply the finishing touch, blasting over from close range.

Four minutes after the restart, Rovers had a serious penalty claim waved away when Stephen Rice tumbled in the area, but ref Graham Kelly yellow-carded the midfielder for simulation; it was an unpopular and controversial call.

For all of Rovers' territorial dominance, worryingly, they weren't crafting too many opportunities and Drogheda were simply diligent for a sustained spell. It was turning into another night of sheer and utter frustration for the Hoops.

Drogheda were denied when Conor McCormack hacked an effort from substitute Jason Marks off the line.

Derek Foran then shaved the woodwork post in stoppage time and Quigley forced a save from Gabriel Sava in a late Hoops flurry.

Shamrock Rovers – Brush; McCormack, Sullivan, Foran, Powell; Chambers, Rice, Finn; O'Connor (Quigley, 49), Sheppard (Kilduff, 79), Stewart (McCabe, 67).

Drogheda United – Sava; Gannon, Prendergast, Byrne, Grimes; Cassidy (O'Brien, 66), O'Conor, Foley, R Brennan, G Brennan; O'Neill (Marks, 81).

Ref – G Kelly (Cork)

Irish Independent