by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to nine games as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Sligo Rovers at Hunky Dorys Park.
Paul O’Conor opened the scoring on 28 minutes as he finished off an excellent team move but Sligo made their pressure count early in the second half as Danny North crossed for David Cawley to convert.
Mick Cooke made two changes from the side that defeated Bray Wanderers on Friday as Phillip Hand and Alan McNally started in place of Michael Daly and Cathal Brady with Alan Byrne lining up in midfield.
As for the visitors, they made one alteration from the eleven that defeated Limerick 2-0 on Saturday at the Showgrounds with former Drogheda player Lee Lynch dropping to the bench in place of Seamus Connelly.
The home side were the first to threaten as Ryan Brennan picked out Declan O’Brien in the box and he passed to Shane Grimes but the full back’s dangerous cross was knocked behind by Gavin Peers.
A mistake from McNally allowed Aaron Greene in down the right and he crossed for Kieran Djilali in space but the English winger saw his goal bound effort blocked by the recovering Grimes.
Sligo should have hit the front on 18 minutes when an inch perfect diagonal pass from Cawley released the busy Greene down the right and his cross found North but the striker was unable to make a clean connection with the ball.
Ten minutes later and the deadlock was broken, McNally brought the ball out of defence and found Grimes who exchanged passes with David Cassidy with the full back cutting back on the byline to find O’Conor who finished from six yards.
United almost doubled their lead ten minutes later as goalscorer O’Conor ventured down the left and passed to Ryan Brennan who backheeled the ball into the path of Byrne and his effort from 25 yards produced a great save Rogers who was up again to deny Declan O’Brien on the rebound.
The Bit O’Red almost equalised on the stroke of half time as Byrne was caught in possession by Joey Ndo who released Raffaele Cretaro and the striker beat Schlingermann only for McNally to clear off the line as the Drogs went into the interval in the lead.
Sligo’s pressure told in the second half as they levelled proceedings on 50 minutes. Ndo dispossessed Gavin Brennan on the right and played in North whose drilled cross was swept into the bottom corner by Cawley.
Drogheda responded by creating two good chances in quick succession, firstly Gavin Brennan picked out O’Connor but the midfielder’s effort was comfortably saved by Rogers and then O’Brien dispossessed Jeff Henderson and ran clear on goal but he shot straight at the Sligo net minder.
With ten minutes remaining, North evaded the challenge of both Byrne and Hand on the halfway line and he moved the ball onto substitute Dave McMillan who set up Djilali but the winger fired over from an acute angle.
The home side finished the stronger and should have won the game in additional time as a one-two between Gavin Brennan and Hand saw the latter cross to the back post for O’Conor but he headed narrowly over the bar.
The referee’s whistle signalled the end of an entertaining game of football with Sligo’s title hopes all but over as Drogheda travel to table toppers Dundalk on Sunday for a crucial Louth derby.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be looking to maintain their fine recent form as they take on Sligo Rovers in the Airtricity league at Hunky Dorys Park, kick off 7.45pm.
Having won their last five games in both league and cup, including a hard fought 2-0 victory over Bray Wanderers on Friday, Mick Cooke’s side have moved away from the relegation zone and have their sights set on a top half finish.
The Drogs welcome leading goal scorer Declan O’Brien back into the squad following suspension while Graham Rusk and Michael Daly are both unavailable due to injury.
As for the visitors, Sligo remain in contention for domestic honours as the reigning champions sit in third, six points behind Dundalk with a game in hand after a 2-0 win at home to Limerick on Saturday night.
The bit o’red will be without the injured Ross Gaynor, Evan McMillan and Iarfhlaith Davoren while Pascal Millien will be unavailable as he is travelling to Seoul to be part of the Haiti squad to play South Korea on Friday in a friendly.
The sides have only met once so far in the league this season, at the Showgrounds, as a stoppage time goal from Aaron Greene put Sligo 2-1 up only for substitute Rusk to steal a point for the away side.
Drogheda progressed at the expense of Rovers on their way to the Setanta Cup final as a 2-0 win at home courtesy of goals from David Cassidy and Gary O’Neill was enough for United despite a 1-0 defeat in the second leg.
Speaking ahead of the game, Drogheda boss Mick Cooke is expecting a stern test from the 2012 Airtricity league champions.
“We had another hard game on Friday night against Bray, they didn’t make it easy, but we have kept our good run going and we will want to keep it going tomorrow night.
“It’s a chance for us to close the gap and try and push on into the top-half of the table.
“It’s going to be another good footballing game on Tuesday night, they like to play some open and free football like we do. We have had a lot of good games this season and we expect no less from tomorrow night. “
Raffaele Cretaro (Anthony Elding 87’)
Seamus Conneely (David McMillan 70’)
Paul O’Conor 28’
David Cawley 50’
Derek Prendergast (yellow) 12’
Gavin Brennan (yellow) 20’
Alan Byrne (yellow) 65’
Raffaele Cretaro (yellow) 25’
Gavin Peers (yellow) 89’