It was a very satisfying night in the Brandywell as Mick Cooke’s men gained their first league win over Derry City this season, having convincingly knocked the Foylesiders out of the EA Sports Cup just eleven days earlier.
It was the two Brennan brothers who ensured that there were smiles all round on the bus back to Drogheda, each of them putting the ball in the back of the Derry net 7 minutes either side of half time.
Mick Cooke was forced into making a couple of changes from the line-up that had convincingly beaten Limerick. Philip Hand made a return to the team at left back in the place of a suspended Shane Grimes, while Alan Byrne slotted in beside Derek Prendergast at centre-half as Alan McNally nurses a hand injury.
Derry were fastest out of the traps. In the early stages they had the lions share of possession and probed the Drogheda defence, but without creating any clear cut chances. Indeed Drogheda had the better scoring chance when Gavin Brennan blazed a header over the bar from six yards out with the Derry defence missing in action. The cross came from Cathal Brady who was to cause the Derry full back problems all evening.
However Brennan made amends when he was on hand to nod in when Declan O’Brien’s shot was parried on 38 minutes. Fabio had used all his strength and experience to out-muscle a Derry defender, getting in a powerful shot which Ger O’Doherty could only beat away to the in-rushing Drogheda native.
There were almost seven minutes of added time played in the first half due to a facial injury suffered by Mick Daly. A Derry elbow caught him on the cheekbone, causing a deep gash that stubbornly resisted treatment.
The Derry manager obviously had some choice words for his team during the half-time break and they arrived back on the pitch several minutes early.
Those words seemed to have little effect however as it was Ryan Brennan who then put the game beyond Derry’s reach, slotting home a penalty on 52 minutes. Ryan had been clearly pushed in the back to win the spot kick. Having scored a penalty against Limerick the previous week with a cheeky chip, this time Ryan went for power, finding the bottom corner.
Try as they might, the Candystripes could not break down the dogged Drogheda defence, and steely performances from the likes of Mick Daly (who had to be treated several times during the game for his facial injury) and Alan Byrne at centre half meant that a frustrated Derry saw the full three points deservedly head back to County Louth.
Micheál Schlingermann, starting ahead of Gabriel Sava for the 8th time in the league this season, was rarely called to action. The Drogheda keeper easily dealt with all that Derry could muster in the way of goal-scoring opportunities, most notably a fine double save in the second half, and justified his manager’s team selection decision, keeping his 3rd clean sheet in a row in the league. Schlingermann’s kicking was exceptional throughout the game.
This was the final league encounter between the two sides of 2013 and demonstrated the Boynesiders determination to finish off their league campaign with a flourish. Many of the home supporters who had jeered their team as they departed the pitch at full time stayed behind to applaud the Drogheda players.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will take on Derry City for the sixth time this season as the two sides go head to head in the league at the Brandywell, kick off 7.45pm.
The last encounter between the sides was eleven days ago as the Drogs defeated the Candystripes 3-1 to reach their second consecutive EA Sports Cup final.
Drogheda manager Mick Cooke will be without the suspended Shane Grimes while Graham Rusk and Gary O’Neill are set to miss out due to injury.
An impressive 3-0 victory over Limerick last Friday was United’s first win in nine games as they look to bring their impressive cup form into the league.
Meanwhile, Derry remain in the hunt for the league title as they sit in fourth spot, five points behind table toppers St. Patrick’s Athletic.
The Candystripes go into tonight’s encounter without the injured pair of Kevin Derry and Stewart Greacen as Declan Devine looks forced to shuffle his pack ahead of the vital fixture.
City have the league’s leading scorer in their ranks with Northern Ireland international Rory Patterson who has 16 this term, with United’s Declan O’Brien next in line with 13.
Having seemingly turned the corner in the last two weeks following impressive results against Derry, Limerick and St. Pat’s, Cooke believes that his side is going into the game full of confidence.
“Obviously the lads had a good win against Limerick and we are on a bit of a run at the moment, but we know that each week is a different test and we won’t get ahead of ourselves.
“It’s going to be a different game when we go up on Friday; obviously league games are different to a one off cup semi-final. They need three points to keep up with the leaders and we are looking for three points to move up the table, so it will be an intriguing game.
“We have played each other quite a bit this season, we won the last meeting, but they beat us at our place previous to that. We all enjoy going to Derry, the supporters certainly appreciate good football and it’s a great venue to play at, so it’s a game we are all very much looking forward to”.
Ruaidhri Higgins (Barry Molloy 56)
Sean Houston (Barry McNamee 56)
Michael Duffy (Mark Griffin 81)
Derek Prendergast ©
Declan O’Brien (Peter Hynes 86)
Gavin Brennan 38
Ryan Brennan 52
Sean Houston 23 (yellow card)
Michael Duffy 37 (yellow card)
Barry Molloy 70 (yellow card)
Ryan McBride 88 (yellow card)
Declan O’Brien 22 (yellow card)