Former Shamrock Rovers midfielder Ryan Brennan proved the matchwinner for his hometown club as Drogheda United produced a stunning, shock victory over the champions at Head In The Game Park.
Brennan’s first half goal came totally against the run of play as the champions dominated. They found Drogheda goalkeeper Sam Long in inspired form, however, and Brennan took full advantage at the other end.
Derry City’s defeat to Sligo means new life hasn’t been breathed into the title race but a second win in three days cannot be understated for Drogheda’s ambitions to move away from the bottom two.
Ex-Hoops man Brennan scored his fourth goal of a productive first season back at his hometown club. Substitute Dayle Rooney burst past Barry Coffey on the left flank and stood up a cross into the six-yard box. Brennan arrived between two Rovers defenders and planted a header past a stranded Alan Mannus.
To that point, the majority of the game had been played out at the other end. Rory Gaffney and Cotter had early chances but it was in-form Danny Mandroiu who met his match in the form of on-loan Lincoln City goalkeeper Long.
The young stopper sprang to his left to produce a stunning save to keep out Mandroiu’s 20-yard free kick. Later, after a fine move involving Andy Lyons and Dylan Watts, Long’s outstretched leg denied the forward from point blank range.
Already without Sean Roughan and Andrew Quinn, Drogheda lost captain Dane Massey to injury early on. Shortly after the opener, Stephen Bradley was forced to withdraw Jack Byrne through injury for the second time in four days.
In the second half, Rovers couldn’t muster the number of chances they would have hoped their possession might have warranted. Sean Hoare headed wide early on and Mandroiu shot wide before his late dismissal for two bookings.
Long; Poynton, Cowan, Massey (Rooney, 9), Weir; Heeney, Deegan, Clarke, Brennan (Williams, 86); Grimes; Lyons (Foley, 78).
Mannus; Gannon, Hoare, Grace; Cotter (O’Neill, 61), Watts, Towell (Greene 61), Lyons; Byrne (Burke, 41); Mandroiu, Gaffney (Emakhu, 70).