By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United are now eight points adrift of safety after they lost 1-0 to St Patrick’s Athletic at United Park.
Christy Fagan’s early strike was enough for the Saints to secure all three points despite a spirited performance from the plucky Boynesiders.
Drogheda manager Pete Mahon made one change from the side that lost 4-1 to Galway United last week as new signing Jack Bayly started in place of Adam Wixted.
The hosts threatened straight from kick-off as Sean Russell collected a loose ball 25-yards from goal but his strike flew over the bar.
In an open start, St Pat’s hit the bar on four minutes as a clipped corner to the edge of the box found Kurtis Byrne and he had time to take a touch before striking the underside of the crossbar with Stephen McGuinness beaten.
The Drogheda goal was living a charmed life as Conan Byrne was released down the right and his early cross was met by Fagan but he somehow hit the bar with the goal at his mercy.
In a carbon copy move, the Saints took the lead seconds later. A defence-splitting pass from Jordi Balk found Conan Byrne in acres of space and he crossed for Fagan who bundled the ball home from close range.
It should’ve been 2-0 on 25 minutes when Billy Dennehy lifted a cross to the back post with Conan Byrne’s header destined for the far corner before Lloyd Buckley’s crucial intervention.
Drogheda were much improved after the break and they created a half-chance as Russell worked a yard of space on the right and his crossed picked out Thomas Byrne though the winger failed to make contact on his header.
A fine passing move down the left involving Byrne and Conor Kane saw the latter cross for Chris Mulhall inside the box but the forward’s effort was blocked by Lee Desmond.
St Pat’s came close to doubling their advantage just pass the hour mark as Kurtis Byrne flicked the ball into the path of Conan Byrne but he was denied by a fine point-blank save by McGuinness.
Jake Hyland tested Conor O’Malley from distance before substitute Adam Wixted fired wide when well placed in the box.
With three minutes of additional time, Drogheda created one final chance as Kane’s cross was only half cleared as far as Wixted though the winger’s goal-bound strike was magnificently pushed behind by O’Malley to secure all three points.
A promising performance despite the result, Drogheda will be looking to build on this when they host league leaders Cork City at United Park next Friday.
Drogheda United: Stephen McGuinness; Colm Deasy (Shane Elworthy 36), Lloyd Buckley, Luke Gallagher , Conor Kane; Ryan McEvoy, Jack Bayly (Sean Brennan 73), Sean Russell (Adam Wixted 76), Jake Hyland; Thomas Byrne, Chris Mulhall.
Subs not used: Ryan Coulter, Stephen Dunne, Jamie Hollywood, Stephen Meaney.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Conor O’Malley, Michael Barker, Jordi Balk, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, Graham Kelly, Killian Brennan, Billy Dennehy; Kurtis Byrne (Darragh Markey 82), Christy Fagan (Josh O’Hanlon 83).
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Rory Feely, Alex O’Hanlon, Ian Turner.