Shelbourne make the breakthrough to move second

Thursday 4th May 2006, 11:48 pm

Dan Connor is finally beaten. Stuart Byrne (far left) heads the ball past him.

Dan Connor is finally beaten. Stuart Byrne (far left) heads the ball past him.

Photo by Tom Carey.

4th May 2006

eircom League of Ireland Premier Division

Shelbourne 2

Stuart Byrne 12

Gary O'Neill 72

Drogheda United 1

Declan O'Brien 88

Tolka Park

Shelbourne became the first team to find a way past Drogheda United's defence in the eircom League tonight. The Dublin club managed to score and also inflict a first league loss of the season on the Drogs.

It took just over ten minutes for the deadlock to be broken and a superb header from Stuart Byrne beat Dan Connor at full stretch to end the Drogs season-long clean-sheet. The ball from Alan Moore's free kick was just about perfect and the unmarked Shels man headed in.

Stuart Byrne and Graham Gartland tussled more than once in the game.

Stuart Byrne and Graham Gartland tussled more than once in the game.

Photo by Tom Carey.

Moore had put in another dangerous cross minutes earlier while Liam Kearney hit a weak shot straight at Connor. Although Dean Delaney had to be quick off his line at the other end, Connor was definitely the busier of the two keepers. He was forced to tip over from Jason Byrne with Colin Hawkins blazing wide from the resulting corner kick. Connor was finally beaten by Stuart Byrne's header after around 650 minutes of league football.

Byrne almost got a second five minutes later but his rising shot finished just over Connor's bar.

Stephen Bradley picked up a booking on 24 minutes after a cynical take down. Gary O'Neill looked like making it 2-0 before 30 minutes had elapsed but Simon Webb did well to block.

After a string of niggling fouls, Drogheda's Jason Gavin was booked in the 40th minute.

Shane Robinson and Dave Rogers battle for the ball.

Shane Robinson and Dave Rogers battle for the ball.

Photo by Tom Carey.

As the second half approached, Alan Moore made an early return and it was he had a strain of some sort. Moore eventually lasted almost to the end and put in the kind of performance Shels could do with every week.

A nip and tuck start to the second period saw more midfield battles with James Keddy forcing a top quality tip over from Delaney.

Drogheda tried to change things around a bit with the introduction of both Glen Fitzpatrick and Keith Fahey. Although Fahey in particular did spark some life into the Drogs, Paul Doolin didn't seem keen to push players forward.

In fact, the visitors were lucky to get away with a penalty shout on 65 minutes when Gartland appeared to get his arm between the ball and Jason Byrne's head.

Paul Keegan attempts to thread the ball between Alan Moore and Liam Kearney.

Paul Keegan attempts to thread the ball between Alan Moore and Liam Kearney.

Photo by Tom Carey.

The changes were having some influence and Fahey got around the back before firing in a dangerous low cross. Delaney smothered and looked on as his defence cleared.

At times the game broke down into fierce midfield tussles and on another day Graham Gartland and Stuart Byrne could have collected red cards. It wasn't that they anything you could regard as malicious but the referee, Ian Stokes let both away from incidents would often see yellow cards.

Shelbourne and Gary O'Neill struck to make it 2-0 on 72 minutes. He may be the odd man out in Shelbourne's trio of strikers But he had both Irish internationals in his shadow tonight with Glen Crowe limited to a late cameo in place of fellow international Jason Byrne. O'Neill's goal was another classic header, glancing into the corner of the net from Liam Kearney's cross.

Stuart Byrne almost made it 3-0 seconds later as he crashed a long range shot against the Drogheda bar.

Declan O'Brien (faced by Colin Hawkins and Sean Dillon) grabbed a late goal back for Drogheda.

Declan O'Brien (faced by Colin Hawkins and Sean Dillon) grabbed a late goal back for Drogheda.

Photo by Tom Carey.

Drogheda grabbed a goal back to make things interesting with Declan O'Brien bundling home with two minutes left on the clock.

Although Kearney came close to flicking home a third, Delaney had pull off a fantastic full length save to push away Fahey's injury time shot.

Shelbourne are now the only undefeated team in the Premier Division although they still trail Drogheda on points.

Shelbourne : Delaney, Heary, Dillon, Hawkins, Rogers, S Byrne, Moore (Reynolds 90 +1), Kearney, Cahill, J Byrne (Crowe 86), O'Neill.
Drogheda United : Connor, Shelley, Webb (Lynch 78), Gavin, Gartland, Keegan (Fahey 57), Robinson, Bradley, Keddy, O'Brien, Leech (Fitzpatrick 50).

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