By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United made the perfect start to life in the First Division as they defeated Waterford United 2-1 at United Park.
Goals from Sam O’Connor and Eoin Kirwan gave the hosts a deserved two goal lead at half-time but a goal shortly after the interval from Eoin Rhodes led to a nervy second-half but the hosts held on to secure an opening night victory.
Drogheda took the lead with only five minutes played as Kirwan controlled the ball out wide before picking out Jake Hyland on the edge of the box and he fed the ball into the feet of O’Connor who turned his defender before firing into the bottom corner beyond the outstretched Corey Chambers.
The home side were firmly in the ascendancy in the opening exchanges and they came close to making it 2-0 as Sean Brennan sprayed the ball to the right for Colm Deasy and his cross was met by the head of Aaron Ashe but his effort failed to hit the target.
Waterford came close to equalising against the run of play on 15 minutes when an attack down the right saw the ball cut back to Anthony McAlavey on the edge of the box but his first time strike was beaten away by the legs of Patrick Dunican.
The visitors began to gradually grow into the contest as the half developed without really testing the Drogheda defence and the Drogs almost caught them on the counter-attack as Brennan delightfully played Ashe through on goal but his strike from an acute angle hit the side netting.
Drogheda doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time as a free-kick on the halfway line was chipped into the box and O’Connor rose highest to knock on Doyle’s initial header and Kirwan was on hand to tap home from six yards.
A lightning quick start to the second half saw The Blues pull a goal back inside the opening minute as Shane Mackey’s long ball over the top found Rhodes and he cut inside Luke Gallagher before finishing low past Dunican from 20 yards.
The direct approach from the visitors was causing plenty of problems for the Drogheda defence and a deep cross into box fell to the feet of Rhodes but his weak strike was easily held.
Drogheda began to regain some control of the game shortly past the hour mark and they again called Chambers into action as he was equal to Brennan’s audacious 25-yard half volley.
Chances for Waterford were few and far between but they did go close with 15 minutes remaining as substitute Sean Byrne’s long range strike bounced narrowly wide while Ian Sinnott failed to hit the target after connecting with Byrne’s set piece delivery.
As the game entered its closing stages, Waterford pumped several balls into the box but it was to no avail as the Drogheda defence held firm to record a deserved winning start much to the delight of the large, vocal home support.
The Drogs will be aiming to make it two wins from two next Saturday when they travel to St Colman’s Park to face Cobh Ramblers.
Colm Deasy (Eoghan Dempsey 60)
Sean Brennan (Mark Doyle 87)
Aaron Ashe (Jame McGlynn 88)
Robert Buckley (Dean Reidy 82)
Aaron O’Connor (Sean Byrne 46)
Eoin Rhodes (Dean Broaders 78)