By Killian McHale

Shamrock Rovers 14-game unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of Drogheda United on Friday night, as the Louth side defeated the Hoops by two goals to one in Tallaght Stadium.

In what was his 300th game in charge of the club, Stephen Bradley made two changes to his starting-eleven from Monday night’s Dublin derby win over St. Patrick’s Athletic, as Sean Hoare & Trevor Clarke came into the side in place of Dan Cleary & Ronan Finn, who both dropped to the bench.

Both sides shared chances in the opening minutes in Tallaght, with the visitors forcing Leon Pohls into action early on, with the German keeper getting down low to save a from a Dayle Rooney shot inside the Rovers 18-yard box. Moments later, Graham Burke fired an effort just wide at the other end of the pitch.

Rovers first shot on target came after 13 minutes when Aaron McNally cleared Rory Gaffney’s goalbound effort off the line after Neil Farrugia’s shot was initially saved by Colin McCabe in the Drogheda goal.

Play settled down after this, with the visitors sitting deep and soaking up pressure as Rovers controlled possession.

With ten minutes remaining in the half, McCabe pulled off a fantastic low save to deny Jack Byrne the opening goal of the game, after Gaffney played the Irish International in.

With 43 minutes on the clock, Trevor Clarke was next to see his effort cleared off the line, this time his header being cleared away by former hoop Ryan Brennan on the Drogheda goal line.

These missed chances came back to bite the Hoops, as Drogheda opened the scoring in the 45th minute through Freddie Draper. A long ball in behind the Rovers defence forced Draper & Sean Hoare to fight for the ball, with the Drogheda striker winning the tussle before turning onto his left and firing into Leon Pohls’ bottom left-hand corner to give Kevin Doherty’s side the lead at the break.

The second half started off with a lack of clear chances until the visitors doubled their lead twelve minutes into the half through Dayle Rooney. Drogheda broke on the counter, as Luke Heeney’s deep cross from the right found Dayle Rooney in behind the Rovers defence, who controlled the ball before firing home to give the away side some breathing space.

This forced Rovers to press on more, with a flurry of opportunities presenting themselves in quick succession. First Towell side-footed over McCabe’s crossbar before Burke volleyed over moments later as the Hoops looked to find a way back into the game.

The Drogheda rearguard finally gave way in the 79thth minute through Rory Gaffney. Neil Farrugia did well down the right wing, finding Towell with space inside the Drogheda box. Towell’s effort was blocked by Keeley, with the rebound falling to the feet of Gaffney who tapped home from close-range to give the 5,000 Rovers fans in attendance some hope.

The remaining minutes were spent mainly in the Drogheda half, with substitute Sean Kavanagh and Jack Byrne both coming close to finding an equaliser for Stephen Bradley’s side.

But unfortunately, the leveller never came as the visitors saw out the game to pick up a valuable three points against the reigning champions

Rovers are on the road South next Friday, as the Hoops travel to Turner’s Cross to take on Cork City, with kick-off in Leeside set for 7:45pm.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls; Hoare (56’ Kenny), Lopes ©, Grace; Farrugia, O’Neill, Towell, Clarke (82’ Kavanagh); Byrne, Burke, Gaffney.

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Toms Leitis (GK), Dan Cleary, Ronan Finn, Aaron Greene, Darragh Nugent, Markus Poom, Conan Noonan.

Drogheda United: McCabe; Heeney, Adeboyega, Keeley, McNally; Deegan ©, Brennan, Markey, Grimes (76’ Foley), Rooney; Draper.

Drogheda United unused substitutes: Fiachra Pagel (GK), Matthew O’Brien, Emmanuel Milongo, Warren Davis, Callum Ralph, Andrew Wogan.

Attendance: 5,157.