A high octane finish to Drogheda’s clash with Sligo Rovers saw Graham Rusk strike in the 95th minute to earn the Boynesiders a valuable point.
Mick Cooke made only one change from the side which narrowly lost to the Bit O’Red on Monday night, Ryan Brennan was replaced with Michael Daly.
Both sides picked up from where they left off in that Setanta Cup clash and Sligo were on top in the opening exchanges. David Cawley pounced on a moment of uncertainty in the Drogheda defence but Sava was more than equal to the subsequent shot.
Again Sligo pressed and Anthony Elding was next to try his luck as Joseph Ndo, making only his third start of the season, took a quick free-kick and picked out Anthony Elding who shot harmlessly wide from 10 yards out.
David Cassidy was the first to test Gary Rogers, the midfielder shot from distance but the Sligo keeper was always behind the ball.
Gavin Brennan was then required to perform defensive duties as Lee Lynch released Ross Gaynor down the wing and the Ardee native looked to square the ball only for Brennan to get a leg to the ball and break up the attack.
Elding had another chance to open the scoring but he hesitated and Shane Grimes put in a well-timed tackle to keep the game 0-0. Sligo were then made to pay for the missed chances as a David Cassidy free-kick found Declan O’Brien unmarked and he finished past former Drog Gary Rogers.
Sligo pushed for a leveller but were constantly re-buffed by another solid defensive display. Sava reacted well to a spilled cross to gather at the second attempt with Elding bearing down on the keeper.
Declan O’Brien should have had a second goal when Gary Rogers delayed outside his box and the striker robbed the ball but Gavin Peers got back to block the shot.
Elding looked destined to suffer his third goalless encounter with Drogheda as he wasted two chances after the re-start.
Gavin Peers again foiled the Drogheda attack when Paul O’Conor picked out O’Brien and Gary Rogers came racing out of the box to tackle the striker but slipped allowing O’Brien in but Peers had narrowed the angle and made the block.
Sligo’s pressure eventually paid off on 67 minutes when Aaron Greene sent an inviting ball into the box and Anthony Elding broke free to glance a header past Sava. A few moments of madness ensued and Ross Gaynor was dismissed for an off the ball altercation.
Alan McNally, introduced as a second-half sub, set up Gavin Brennan from an O’Brien corner but Gary Rogers was equal to the winger’s shot as Drogheda tried to make their numerical advantage count.
With 87 minutes on the clock Alan Keane went on a run and he skipped past two Drogheda defenders before seeing his well struck shot smack off the head of Alan Byrne, but three minutes later and the hosts were ahead.
Kieran Djilali broke down the wing and picked out Danny Ventre who mis-hit a shot at goal, Aaron Greene directed the ball at goal and the Drogs had to watch agonisingly as it trickled across the line.
The goal celebrations had hardly died down when in the fifth minute of injury time Drogheda broke as Gavin Brennan sent a ball to the back post which Aaron Greene failed to control and Graham Rusk stole in to tap home.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Evan McMillan, Ross Gaynor; David Cawley (Danny Ventre, ’84), Lee Lynch (Jeff Henderson, ’90), Joseph Ndo, Pascal Millien (Kieran Djilali, ’77), Aaron Greene; Anthony Elding.
Subs not used: Adam Murphy, Marty Owens, Ryan Connolly, Liam Martin.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne, Derek Prendergast (Alan McNally, ’61), Shane Grimes; Paul O’Conor (Eric Foley, ’76) David Cassidy, Declan O’Brien (Graham Rusk, ’89), Gavin Brennan; Michael Daly, Gary O’Neill
Subs not used: Micheal Schlingermann, Philip Hand, Stephen Quigley, Peter Hynes.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer