by Shane Callaghan
Roberto Lopes netted an 88th-minute equaliser to deny Drogheda United their first Airtricity League victory since May as Bohemians snatched a 1-1 draw at Dalymount on Friday.
United defender Alan Byrne had nodded the visitors into the lead midway through the second-half, but Lopes, with two minutes remaining, was on-hand to turn home Anto Murphy’s long-throw to send the home supporters into fervent celebrations whilst extending the Boynesiders win-less streak to eight matches.
Declan O’Brien thought he had provided a final sting in the tale, though, but his header deep into stoppage-time was ruled out for offside.
Drogheda United boss Mick Cooke made three changes to the team who drew 2-2 with UCD a fortnight ago, with captain Derek Prendergast returning to the side having sat out the trip to Belfield through suspension. Goalkeeper Micheál Schlingermann displaced Gabriel Sava while O’Brien, who netted both goals against the Students, dropped out of the starting lineup in favour of Graham Rusk.
It was all-white on the night for Drogheda United, as Mick Cooke’s men took to the field sporting their new away kit. Unlike various other displays from the Boynesiders this season, though, this performance did not belong on any blooper-reel.
The visitors dominated proceedings – primarily in the second-half – with Cooke’s charges tormenting their opposite numbers with quick, slick and efficient passing at times which resembled a team whose base is near the beaches of Rio De Janeiro rather than the beaches of Mosney.
The Boynesiders were given a week off last week due to Sligo Rovers participation in the preliminary stages of the Champions League – but it was the home side who looked fresher and more enthused by the prospect of 90 minutes of football in the opening exchanges, with Keith Buckley the recipient of the game’s first opportunity but he failed to direct his header goalbound.
Some 16 minutes elapsed before the visitors were given their first sight of goal, with Bohs ‘keeper Dean Delany producing an outstanding save to deny Gavin Brennan’s ferociously-hit volley.
Both teams enjoyed lengthy spells of possession throughout the remainder of the first-half but lacked the cutting-edge in the final third to create goalscoring opportunities.
United target-man Peter Hynes, who is yet to etch his name on a score-sheet in the league this season, saw a bid to end his goal-drought rebuffed by the impressive Delany, who forced the striker out wide before smothering his attempt at goal.
The visitors emerged from the interval revitalised by manager Mick Cooke’s team-talk and began producing swift, fluent attacks – a far-cry from the route-one which was evident at times throughout the opening 45.
Ryan Brennan came within the width of the woodwork from opening the scoring following an exquisite set-piece manoeuvre. Graham Rusk, running on to David Cassidy’s short corner, stepped over the ball for the oncoming Brennan whose effort crashed off the crossbar. It is not the first time Cooke’s men have come close to executing a perfect training-ground routine this season. The passage of play deserved a goal.
The away side began to monopolise possession and pose serious questions to the Bohemians rear-guard, with Paul O’Conor volleying narrowly wide before David Cassidy – who was excellent all evening – wormed his way through the opposition back-four but elected to pass instead of shoot in the decisive moment. Poor choice from the midfielder.
It would not be long before the dominance paid off, though. Dean Delany, having kept the visitors at bay successfully for some 65 minutes, failed to deal with Gavin Brennan’s curled cross before centre-half Alan Byrne threw himself at the loose-ball and headed home.
If things weren’t bad enough for Bohs’ caretaker boss Owen Heary – watching on from the gantry after being sent off two weeks ago – the sight of Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien emerging from the opposition dugout will have done little to change his mood.
However, the hosts came agonisingly close to restoring parity, with Dinny Corcoran’s glancing header floating inches past Schlingermann’s post. Heary’s men struggled to build on the opportunity, though, and the visitors picked up where they left off.
Cooke’s men began to turn on the style; with O’Brien, O’Conor, O’Neill and Ryan Brennan all combining exquisitely in a one-touch passing attack but O’Neill’s final ball across the face of goal eluded everybody.
The Boynesiders may have been a little too comfortable, however, as with two minutes remaining Roberto Lopes tapped home Murphy’s Rory Delap-type throw, before O’Brien saw his header chalked off for offside in the dying embers.
It is very much a case of two points dropped for Cooke and Co. this evening, who travel to Richmond Park next week hoping to inflict an upset for high-flying St. Pats and end their barren spell of eight games without a win in the Airtricity League.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda united will play their first competitive game in almost two weeks as they travel to Dalymount park for a vital clash against managerless Bohemians, kick off 7.45 pm.
The suspended Michael Daly and injury victim Eric Foley are absent for the Drogs while there are slight doubts over the fitness of Alan McNally, Alan Byrne and Declan O’Brien.
Drogheda are currently languishing in eight position and dangerously hovering over the relegation zone.
United will be looking to pick up their first win in the league since they defeated Limerick 1-0 back on May 14th, seven games ago.
As for the Gypsies, an awful run of results have seen the Phibsborough club part ways with manager Aaron Callaghan as they occupy the relegation play-off position.
They will be without the suspended pair of Luke Byrne and Derek Pender but new signing Anto Murphy may start in defence.
Under caretaker manager Owen Heary, Bohs recorded only their fourth win of the season, the same as United, a 3-1 victory away to Bray Wanderers thanks to a late double from former Drog Dinny Corcoran.
The two sides played out a spirited 2-2 draw earlier in the season while United convincingly defeated Bohemians 3-0 in the third round of the FAI Cup at Dalymount.
Despite that result, Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke is wary of the threat a rejuvenated Bohemians will present.
“The break has been good for the team, the players took full advantage. We had a hectic schedule and I felt we put in good performances, but just didn’t get the rewards we deserved, but the players have a chance now to re- focus.
“There is pressure on every game, obviously with Bohs and Shels winning things are tightening up at the bottom, but that doesn’t change what we need to go out and do.
“We will be looking to get the win tomorrow and hopefully that will put us on a good run on which we can move into the top half of the table.
“Obviously last time we had a good win at Dalymount, but things have changed since then. Aaron Callaghan is gone and it’s unfortunate when a manager losses his job, but the players will want to impress the new management and we’ll have to be on our guard for that.”
Dean Delany ©
Michael Barker (Dave Scully 83)
Stephen Traynor (Andy Mulligan 69)
Chris Lyons (Conor Murphy 59)
Derek Prendergast ©
Peter Hynes (Declan O’Brien 69)
Roberto Lopes (88)
Alan Byrne (65)
Stephen Traynor 38 (yellow)
Keith Buckley 39 (yellow)
David Scully 90+3 (yellow)
Ryan Brennan 8 (yellow)
Paul O’Conor 45 (yellow)
Gavin Brennan 45+1 (yellow)