By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United kept the pressure on second place UCD as they defeated 10 man Athlone Town 1-0 at United Park.
Aaron Ashe’s sixth goal of the season just short of the hour mark was enough for the Drogs to return to winning ways with the visitors defending valiantly following Aidy Byrne’s early dismissal.
Drogheda manager Pete Mahon made one change from the side that lost 2-1 to Cobh Ramblers with Sam O’Connor replacing Sean Thornton.
In a pedestrian first-half of few chances, the hosts created an opening on 16 minutes when Sean Brennan picked out Ashe who cut inside before firing high over the bar.
Drogheda were dominating the ball but failing to their possession into chances though their cause was helped when Athlone winger Aidy Byrne was dismissed for two bookable offences.
Byrne first came to referee Ray Matthews’ attention following a late challenge on Luke Gallagher and he was sent off just 13 minutes later for kicking out at Drogheda full back Lloyd Buckley.
Despite the red card, United started the second period in a similar tepid fashion resulting in the introduction of Thornton for O’Connor.
That substitution paid dividends five minutes later as the Drogheda captain gave the ball to Marc Griffin who in turn released Ashe and the forward’s strike was parried before eventually bouncing over the line.
Drogheda’s first touch and decision making was poor on the night and they only created one more genuine chance to kill off Athlone as substitute Mark Doyle shot wide from an acute angle following Thornton’s through ball.
The visitors, coming off the back of a morale boosting 1-0 win over Shelbourne last week, threw caution to the wind in the dying stages but it was to no success with Drogheda keeper Stephen McGuinness a spectator throughout.
Drogheda will travel to Tolka Park this Friday as they look to avenge a 3-0 from earlier this season.
Aaron Ashe (Mark Doyle 66)
Sean Brennan ©
Sam O’Connor (Sean Thornton 54)
Ciaran O’Connell (Sean McGrane 89)
Darragh Concannon (Michael Monaghan 45)