Convincing victory a timely boost for Rovers
Hoops warm up for their trip to Iceland with impressive win over Drogheda
Shamrock Rovers’ James Doona celebrates at the end of the game. Photograph: Tom Beary/Inpho
Shamrock Rovers 4 Drogheda United 1
If a serious crack at the league has eluded them in a way that nobody could quite have expected before the start of the season then Europe offers the opportunity of redemption for this Shamrock Rovers team.
They will head to Iceland next week in hopeful mood off the back of a solid second straight league win. Drogheda, though, did make it rather easy for them at times.
Stjarnan sent their assistant manager, former Reading midfielder Brynjar Gunnarsson, to size the Irish side up and though there will be warnings back home about the likes of Ronan Finn, Ryan Connolly and Trevor Clarke who all had their moments here, there will surely be a view too that there is a goal or two there for the taking if Rovers cannot tighten things up a little at the back.
Second-half goals from Gary Shaw and Clarke were enough to put the home side well on the way to victory but they passed up chances to take complete control and Drogheda gave them an anxious moment or two for a spell after pulling one back through Sean Brennan.
Far from fight their way back into things, though, they crumbled instead and conceded two terribly soft late goals to substitutes with James Doona and then 17 year-old Aaron Bolger finishing coolly after the United defence had seemed to lose its collective head. Pete Mahon must have been looking beforehand for his players to keep things steady after a drubbing last week by Dundalk that had been helped along by Thomas Byrne’s sending off before the first of the night’s six goals were scored.
Here, he must have been pleased with the way his side started and, while the game wasn’t much of a spectacle, United kept themselves in it well enough with Adam Wixted having passed up a scoring opportunity almost the equal of anything Rovers had generated by the break.
Michael O’Connor’s close -range shot against the foot of the post was the exception and Rovers did gradually get on top of things with a succession of lesser chances just before the interval which was followed, almost immediately, by the opening goal.
Rovers though, struggled to really stamp their authority on things and Gunnarsson will have been encouraged by the hint of defensive uncertainty that continues to show itself from time to time.
Still, there was no question about Rovers deserving their win. Connolly had impressed in their first half as he repeatedly looked to release Brandon Miele or Clarke down the wings and Finn took a more leading role in the second as the locals threatened, for brief spells, to really hit their stride.
Shaw’s finish for his goal was emphatic but Clarke’s goal was the pick of the bunch with Bolger, just on for Connolly to make his first league appearance of the season, sending the midfielder clear to nutmeg Stephen McGuinness and, perhaps, add a few quid to his transfer value.
Rovers then conceded in spectacularly sloppy circumstances although Brennan made hard work of bundling the ball home from a couple of yards out and Drogheda suddenly threatened to make a game of it again.
The hosts, to their credit, though, held their nerve after scraping by defensively once or twice and Doona’s goal, from space 15 yards out, made the points safe before Bolger sidefooted home following United’s rather hapless attempt to get a loose ball safely away after McGuinnes had done well to save at Shaw’s feet.
Shamrock Rovers: Chencinski; Madden, Lopes, Webster, Byrne; Miele, Finn, Connolly (Bolger, 60 mins), Clarke (Meenan, 77 mins); Shaw, O’Connor (Doona 66 mins).
Drogheda United: McGuinness; Deasy, Gallagher, McGuigan, Dunne (Kane, 84 mins); Wixted, McEvoy, Purdy, Doyle; Masterson (Meaney, 71 mins), Elliott (S Brennan, 36 mins).
Referee: S Grant (Wexford).