by Shane Callaghan
Drogheda United earned what could prove to be a priceless point following a hard-fought 0-0 draw with St Patricks Athletic at Richmond Park on Friday.
The hosts, who are currently leading the race for the Airtricity League title, dominated proceedings by way of possession, but it was the Boynesiders who forged two of the game’s best opportunities, with David Cassidy and Ryan Brennan both spurning good chances in either half to break the deadlock.
In contrast to the high-flying Saints, avoiding relegation is high on the list of priorities for Drogheda United boss Mick Cooke, with the Boynesiders lying perilously close to the drop-zone having failed to register a victory since May.
Cooke made two changes to the side that drew away to Bohemians last week, with Alan McNally and Michael Daly recalled to the team at the expense of Paul O’Conor and Gary O’Neill respectively.
Liam Buckley’s men enjoyed a monopoly of possession throughout the opening exchanges without posing much threat to the Drogheda United rearguard, with Alan Byrne sitting in front of the back-four to great effect, just as he did for the visit of Malmö last month.
16 minutes elapsed before either team was given a sight of goal, and the chance fell to Anto Flood but his acrobatic effort sailed over Micheál Schlingermann’s crossbar.
The visitors looked to be offensively vapid for large spells throughout the opening 45 minutes, but best chance of the half – and perhaps the game – fell to David Cassidy.
Peter Hynes and Graham Rusk exchanged a tidy one-two on the edge of the area, before the latter’s cross found the unmarked Cassidy but the diminutive midfielder’s side-footed effort was well-saved by Pats ‘keeper Brendan Clarke.
Five minutes later the hosts came within the width of the post of breaking the deadlock, with Conan Byrne’s expertly-struck volley crashing off the woodwork after Killian Brennan’s close-range effort deflected off Schlingermann and into the air.
Both teams briefly threatened in the closing stages of the first half, with Peter Hynes and Killian Brennan both dispatching tame efforts which never troubled either goalkeeper.
The hosts began the second-half as dominantly as they had began the opening 45, but this time forged clear-cut opportunities in front of goal, with Chris Forrester and Greg Bolger both coming close early in the half.
United still posed a threat, though, with Graham Rusk spurning a good opportunity to break the deadlock before team-mate Ryan Brennan wasted a better one, as the unmarked Brennan failed to convert past Clarke from close-range after the ball broke kindly for him.
Pats striker Christy Fagan very nearly provided the match-winner but the substitute’s effort beat both Schlingermann and the far post after firing from an acute angle toward the end.
The Boynesiders were good value for their point and would have gladly accepted one pre-match, but Cooke and Co. will now turn their attentions toward the cup by travelling north of the border on Monday where Derry City lie between them and successive EA Sports Cup finals.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be hoping to end a winless run of eight league games as they travel to Inchicore to take on table toppers St. Patrick’s Athletic, kick off 7.45pm.
Eric Foley is the only absentee for Mick Cooke’s side as he works his way back to full fitness following a hernia operation.
United will be looking for revenge after a controversial 93rd minute penalty from Killian Brennan gave the Saints all three points when the sides last met at Hunky Dorys Park in May.
This game marks the start of the final set of league games with Pats’ inflicting defeat on Drogheda on the opening night of the season courtesy of a Shane McFaul header.
Drogheda’s alarming run of form will need to be addressed as they hover dangerously over the relegation zone in eight position, only three points above the relegation play-off position.
At the other end of the table, St. Pats’ are three points clear of nearest rivals Dundalk with a game in hand as they look to pick up their first league title since 1999.
McFaul is a doubt for the league leaders having picked up a groin injury in the warm-up before their 2-1 victory over Cork City while defender Ian Bermingham is set to make his 100th league appearance for Pats’.
New signing Daryl Kavanagh is not expected to receive international clearance in time to feature on Friday.
Speaking ahead of the vital clash, Cooke is aware that his side is entering the business end of the season with a relegation battle and two cup competitions left to compete in.
“It’s a tough few days ahead, with the trip to Richmond Park and then Monday’s trip to Derry, it’s going to test the players, but with the way our season has gone, we are used to playing so many games in quick succession.
“It’s not going to be easy tomorrow night, Pats’ are the form team in the league and they have a good unbeaten record at home, but we always enjoy games against St Pats’, they are usually entertaining and there’s not much to separate the sides. Obviously we lost 1-0 there earlier in the season, and then a late Killian Brennan penalty in Drogheda, so there’s not much between us.
“In recent weeks we haven’t been getting the results, but I’ve said that I can’t complain about our performances, the team are working well and training hard and there’s a good morale amongst the squad, but unfortunately that’s not turning into the results we need. But we haven’t had a proper run of league games for a while and we’ll be look at tomorrow night as a chance to get a run together.
“Last week was a bit of a kick in the teeth, it’s not the first time we’ve conceded a late goal this year, but the lads will pick themselves up and re-focus on the task in hand. “
Conan Byrne (Daryl Kavanagh 90)
Chris Forrester (Jake Kelly 80)
Anthony Flood (Christy Fagan 70)
Derek Prendergast ©
David Cassidy (Declan O’Brien 74)
Peter Hynes (Gary O’Neill 61)
Greg Bolger 16 (yellow)
Killian Brennan 25 (yellow)
John Russell 89 (yellow)
Shane Grimes 8 (yellow)
Derek Prendergast 84 (yellow)