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Michael Drennan 19' -
Mikey Drennan's seventh goal of the season led Shamrock Rovers to a 1-0 victory over Drogheda United as a poor game of football failed to warm up the assembled crowd on a bitter night in Tallaght.
The Rovers striker stabbed home early in the first half after the entire Drogheda defence stood and watched a Brandon Miele cross come to Drennan who only had to control to convert into an empty net. The goal summed up an encounter that was always likely to be settled by an error rather than any invention.
Pat Fenlon made two personnel changes and one positional shift to the side that laboured to a draw in Limerick last Saturday; Max Blanchard and goalscorer Brandon Miele replaced Luke Byrne and Sean O'Connor respectively, while David O'Connor moved from centre-half to left-back.
The Boynesiders boss John McDonnell made five changes after his side that were dismantled at home to Longford Town last week. The suspended Sean Thornton, striker Daryl Kavanagh and injured defender Lloyd Buckly were the most notable casualties.
In an open first half characterised by unconvincing defending on both sides, Rovers were first to threaten when Miele scuffed a shot at Michael Schlingermann, while at the other end Carl Walshe flashed a shot into the side netting.
The game's first moment of real drama came from an unlikely source, as Alan Byrne, up from central defence for a corner, found himself free in the box and curled beautifully onto the crossboard with Craig Hyland flailing, but the offside flag was up in any case.
Moments later, Rovers missed a glorious chance to take the lead when Byrne misjudged Miele's hanging cross and Gavin Brennan – facing his old club – could only watch as the ball hit his head and bounced just wide. The visitors' slack defending cost them shortly after when Drennan found the net.
Rovers eased off after taking the lead and offered Drogheda numerous opportunities to get back in the game. The best of which fell to Sean Brennan when he intercepted a loose pass from Blanchard to central defensive partner Conor Kenna, but with time to set himself he shot wastefully over the bar.
The Hoops should have found themselves two goals to the good when Keith Fahey dinked the ball over the top for Ryan Brennan and took the return pass just behind the penalty spot, but his weak shot was blocked by Jason Marks.
The home side emerged for the second half with renewed vigour and laid virtual siege to the Drogheda goal for the entire second period. The visitors responded by dropping ever deeper, but Rovers had to wait until the 81st minute to steer a shot on target, Schlingermann saving comfortably from Drennan.
Fenlon introduced Gary McCabe for Gavin Brennan – who had been booked during the first half – in an effort to break down Drogheda's packed defence, which now saw Sam McGowan in place of Mick Daly, who limped off shortly after the half-time break.
Rovers became more direct in their search for an equaliser, which fed into the visitors' hands, and Drennan summed up his side's frustration when, having come back to the edge of the centre circle to receive the ball, he shot well over the bar from 35 yards.
Drogheda were content to sit back in the knowledge that the stuttering Rovers defence would allow them opportunities to salvage an equaliser, but on the rare opportunity they had to counter, they lacked the invention to make it count.
Miele nearly added gloss to the scoreline in the final minute as he rattled the crossbar with a fierce right-footed strike, but it finished 1-0 and the Hoops rise to second place, at least until Monday.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, Maxime Blanchard, David O'Connor; Brandon Miele, Pat Cregg (Stephen McPhail 69), Ryan Brennan, Keith Fahey, Gavin Brennan (Gary McCabe 60); Michael Drennan.
Subs not used: Barry Murphy (gk), Luke Byrne, Sean O'Connor, Kieran 'Marty' Waters, Danny North.
Booked: Brennan (26), Marks (73).
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingermann; Mick Daly (Sam McGowan 49), Joe Gorman, Alan Byrne, Jason Marks; Lee Duffy, Sean Brennan (Cathal Brady 72), Stephen Maher, Mark Hughes (Robert O'Reilly), Carl Walshe; Tiernan Mulvenna.
Subs not used: Dylan Connolly (gk), Shane Dunne, Michael Scott, Matty Rooney.
Booked: Maher (73)
Referee: Sean Grant.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Brandon Miele (Shamrock Rovers).