by Robert O'Reilly
Second half goals from Killian Brennan and Jamie McGrath sealed a hard fought 2-0 win for St Patrick’s Athletic over Drogheda United at United Park.
Drogheda manager Johnny McDonnell made two change from the side that lost to Dundalk a fortnight ago as Tiarnan Mulvenna replaced the suspended Lee Duffy up front and Adam Whelan came in for Cathal Brady.
St Pat’s came into the game off the back of their european exit to Skonto Riga last week and they started the brighter with Killian Brennan’s tenth minute free kick crashing against the bar before bouncing out of play.
Drogheda gradually grew into the game and they came close to scoring the opener when Hughes’ clipped cross to the backpost was nodded on by Whelan but the winger’s header went narrowly wide.
The visitors were playing with a defensive line and United sprung the offside trap on 25 minutes as Sean Brennan picked out Whelan but he was denied by an excellent recovery challenge from Jason McGuinness.
United really should have taken the lead only two minutes later as bright passing between Sean Brennan and Sean Thornton saw the latter play a delightful through ball to Tiarnan Mulvenna though the striker missed the target with only Brendan Clarke to beat.
St Pat’s were awarded a penalty on the half hour mark as Whelan lost possession in the penalty area before catching Killian Brennan with an outstretched leg. The Drogheda born midfielder took the spot kick himself but he was denied by a fine save from Micheál Schlingermann with Chris Forrester firing wide from the rebound.
With the sides level at the break, the Inchicore outfit started the second half with greater urgency and they struck the frame of the goal for the second time on the night as Ger O’Brien cut inside on the right before sending a stunning curling effort on his weaker foot against the bar with the Drogheda defence relieved to clear the loose ball.
The Saints were struggling to break down a resolute Drogheda defence and the were restricted to half chances as Jamie McGrath swivelled in the box before firing over the bar.
The vital breakthrough eventually arrived on 75 minutes and McDonnell will undoubtedly be disappointed with the nature of the goal as Killian Brennan headed in unmarked from Morgan Langley’s corner.
Drogheda pushed forward in search of an equaliser as they gave debuts to new signings Robert Bayly and Gerald Pender but it was to no avail as the visitors secured all three points in stoppage time as Langley robbed Alan Byrne of possession before crossing for McGrath who had a simple finish.
Despite the result, Drogheda remain eight in the table and they will be looking to stay in touch with the top half when they meet Longford Town at City Calling Stadium next Saturday.
Adam Whelan (Gerald Pender)
Mark Hughes (Stephen Maher)
Sean Brennan (Robert Bayly)
Conan Byrne (Conor McCormack 87)
Aaron Greene (Morgan Langley 73)