by Robert O'Reilly
By Robert O’Reilly
A late Richie Towell strike was enough to consign a spirited Drogheda United to their fourth defeat of the season as they lost 1-0 to Dundalk at Oriel Park.
The visitors had frustrated the league leaders for the majority of the game and seemed on the verge of earning a creditable draw before Towell decided matters two minutes from time.
Drogheda manager Johnny McDonnell made three changes from the side that lost to Bohemians last week with Sean Brennan, Carl Walshe and Jason Marks replacing Lee Duffy, Michael Scott and Cathal Brady as the Drogs lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Dundalk were the first to have an effort on target as with eight minutes gone, Ronan Finn teed up with his midfield partner Towell who worked a yard of space before firing a curling effort toward the bottom corner which Michéal Schlingermann was equal to.
Despite being second best in the opening stages, Drogheda should have taken the lead on the half hour mark as a dangerous free kick delivery from Sean Brennan found Alan Byrne unmarked at the back post but the defender misjudged his header and it sailed harmlessly wide.
The reigning league champions pushed hard for the opener but they struggled to break down a well organised Drogheda side as the teams went in level at the interval.
The Lilywhites created two good scoring opportunities within ten minutes of the restart as firstly Dane Massey’s 25 yard free kick was well held by Schlingermann before Meenan’s deep cross five minutes later found Dave McMillan but the striker was unable to keep his header on target.
It was rearguard action for Drogheda at this point as another deep cross, this time from the right, found Daryl Horgan at the far post but he failed to make a clean connection as Stephen Maher cleared off the line with Schlingermann beaten.
A stalemate looked the most likely outcome when with only five minutes remaining, Horgan got to the byline and his lofted cross was met by the head of substitute Stephen O’Donnell but the Dundalk captain sent his header from eight yards over the bar.
There was to be one final twist though, as for the second week running, Drogheda conceded at the death as Horgan was afforded too much space on the wing and his cross missed several bodies in the box before finding Towell who made no mistake with his finish.
A much improved performance from Drogheda will be of little consolation for McDonnell as their difficult run of fixtures does not get any easier as they welcome last season’s runners-up Cork City to United Park on Friday.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will go in search for their first win in five when they make the short trip to Oriel Park to face Dundalk on Friday, kick-off 7.45pm.
Despite playing against ten men for almost three quarters of the game last Friday, Drogheda were unable to make their extra man advantage count against Bohemians before they were undone late on much to manager Johnny McDonnell’s frustration.
“The last thing we needed was for one of their players to be sent off,” McDonnell stated. “Tactically we got it right and we were well on top in the game and the red made the game a disaster for both sides. I’m happy enough with the performance and I think we’re getting to where I want us to be.”
The Boynesiders squandered a number of opportunities to break the deadlock with the best chance falling the way of Daryl Kavanagh who saw his penalty saved by Dean Delany but McDonnell feels that his side will soon start finding the back of the net.
“I feel we are creating enough chances, we had the penalty as well as hitting the bar, it’s just the finishing that has left us down. We probably aren’t playing as openly as a Dundalk or a Shamrock Rovers, but there hasn’t been a game this season where I’ve felt we hadn’t tested the opposition goalkeeper.”
Drogheda’s last victory over Dundalk came on the opening night of last season as they defeated the Lilywhites 4-1 at United Park though the league champions would get their revenge a couple of months later with a 7-0 thrashing at Oriel Park.
The third meeting between the sides ended in a 1-1 draw in August and McDonnell is looking forward to his first Louth derby in charge though he is aware that his side will be underdogs.
“Dundalk are the champions and they will be close again this year so obviously it’s a huge test. We’ve done our homework in terms of set pieces and team shape so hopefully everything will go according to plan. I’m really looking forward to the game, nothing beats a derby atmosphere, and it will give us a great indication of where we are at.”
Drogheda will be without Sean Thornton (hamstring) and Neil Yadolahi (thigh) through injury.
Darren Meenan (Kurtis Byrne 80)
Ronan Finn (John Mountney 68)
Chris Shields (Stephen O’Donnell 72)
Alan Byrne (Shane Dunne 67)
Jason Marks (Cathal Brady 46)
Daryl Kavanagh (Tiarnan Mulvenna 85)
Richie Towell 88