By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United have moved back into second place in the table after they defeated Waterford United 2-0 at United Park.
Late second half goals from Luke Gallagher and Aaron Ashe rewarded Drogheda’s perseverance in a game in which they hit the frame of the goal twice and missed several other chances.
Drogheda United manager Pete Mahon made two changes from the side that lost to UCD last week with Jake Hyland starting at centre-back and Sean Brennan returning from suspension.
A cagey opening to the game saw neither side test the keepers though Sean Byrne, playing in midfield, drilled a shot high into the side netting on 12 minutes.
The home side struggled to create anything of note through the middle with most of their attacks coming from the wing and this almost yielded the opener as Lloyd Buckley’s deep cross from the right was met by the head of Sean Thornton though the Drogheda captain’s effort cannoned back off the crossbar.
The shackles were removed in the second-half with neither side seemingly content to settle for a point and the visitors came close to scoring the opener ten minutes after the break as Byrne’s free-kick went narrowly over the bar.
It was another overlapping run from Buckley that created Drogheda’s next chance as his cross from the right was diverted wide by the outstretched Derek Doyle who will feel he should have at least tested Kevin Burns in goal.
It was to matter little though as Drogheda took the lead on 72 minutes in controversial fashion. A superb challenge by Dave O’Leary resulted in Burns picking up the ball with referee Robert Hennessy deeming it to be a back-pass. Drogheda rolled the ball to Thornton but his strike was blocked only for defender Gallagher to squeeze a header in on the rebound at the far post.
The goal appeared to lift Drogheda’s play and they should’ve doubled their advantage seconds later when Marc Griffin picked out the inside run of Ashe but the winger’s thunderous shot clipped the crossbar to keep Waterford in the contest.
The visitors piled players forward in an attempt to rescue something from the game but the Boynesiders doubled their lead with two minutes to go as a fine passing move resulted in Sean Brennan playing a defence splitting pass into the feet of Ashe who fired across the keeper into the far corner.
Drogheda will be on the road for the first time since the mid-season break next Saturday when they face fellow play-off hopefuls Cobh Ramblers at St Colman’s Park.