By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United continued their fine start to the new season as they defeated St Patrick’s Athletic 2-0 in difficult conditions at United Park.
The Drogs made it two wins from two as a second-half strike from Jake Hyland and an own goal from Patrick Cregg sealed Drogheda’s first win over St Pat’s since 2012.
Drogheda United manager Pete Mahon made two changes from the side that defeated Galway United last week as Sean Thornton and Thomas Byrne started in place of the injured Killian Brennan while Adam Wixted had to settle for a place on the bench.
A bright start from the hosts was almost rewarded after five minutes as a short corner-kick routine saw the ball worked back to Stephen Dunne on the edge of the box only for the defender’s first time strike to cannon back off the bar
There was an air of confidence to Drogheda’s start and this was epitomised through a fine run from Thomas Byrne as the winger evaded Ian Bermingham before attempting to chip Barry Murphy in the St Pat’s goal.
Drogheda continued to create chances at will and a fine move involving Ciaran McGuigan and Gavin Brennan resulted in the latter delivering an inch-perfect cross for Stephen Elliott but the forward’s header was off target.
Despite their dominance, Drogheda came close to falling behind on 40 minutes as a corner-kick was knocked back across the box to Barker and his scuffed strike was cleared off the line by Gavin Brennan.
Byrne was causing plenty of problems for the Saints defence and he was hauled down on 44 minutes by Josh O’Hanlon with the midfielder fortunate to only be booked for a cynical foul.
The Saints improved after the break and they were unfortunate not to take the lead as a ball across the face of goal was met by Billy Dennehy but his strike hit the inside of the post before being cleared from danger.
It was against the run of play that Drogheda eventually broke the deadlock. A clever reverse ball from Gavin Brennan was collected by Hyland who rode the challenge of Desmond before slotting the ball into the bottom corner sending Murphy the wrong way.
Hyland had the ball in the net again a minute later but his joy was short lived with the assistant referee adjudging Stephen Elliott to have strayed offside in the build-up.
St Pat’s dominated possession for long periods of the second half without troubling the Drogheda defence and it was the home side who doubled their lead as a fine run from Colm Deasy saw the defender’s cross headed into his own net by the despondent Cregg.
A 100% start to life back in the Premier Division for the Drogs and they will go into next week’s top of the table clash with Cork City at United Park full of confidence.
Drogheda United: Stephen McGuinness; Colm Deasy, Stephen Dunne, Luke Gallagher, Ciaran McGuigan; Sean Thornton (Ryan McEvoy 78), Thomas Byrne (Gareth McCaffrey 69), Richie Purdy, Jake Hyland, Gavin Brennan; Stephen Elliott (Marc Griffin 78 ).
Subs Not Used: Dylan Sweeney (GK), Lloyd Buckley, Adam Wixted, Conor Kane.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Michael Barker, Ian Bermingham, Rory Feely, Lee Desmond; Patrick Cregg, Graham Kelly, Alex O’Hanlon (Josh O’Hanlon 68), Sam Verdon (Conan Byrne 68), Billy Dennehy (Kurtis Byrne 84); Christy Fagan.
Subs Not Used: Conor O’Malley (GK), Darragh Markey, JJ Lunney, Ciaran Kelly.
DrogfhedaUnited.ie Man of the Match: Jake Hyland