By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United have moved to top of the First Division after they defeated 10-man Finn Harps 2-1 at United Park.
Gareth McCaffrey gave Drogheda the lead from the penalty-spot after Keith Cowan had been sent off for handball and Richie Purdy doubled their lead with a fine solo goal with John O’Flynn’s injury time strike merely a consolation.
Drogs boss Tim Clancy made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Galway United on Friday as Purdy, Luke Rossiter and Stephen Meaney were all drafted in.
Harps enjoyed the majority of possession early on but they were nearly caught on the counter-attack as a long kick out from Paul Skinner left Chris Lyons in a straight chase with Lee Toland with the defender making a vital interception.
A quickly-taken free-kick saw Mark Doyle and Ciaran O’Connor collide in the penalty area with Harps’ appeals waved away by referee Robert Harvey who was back in the spotlight moments later.
A fine through ball from Jake Hyland found substitute McCaffrey who rounded Ciaran Gallagher before seeing his shot hit the post and then handled by Cowan. Harvey did not hesitate in sending the defender off with McCaffrey keeping his nerve from the spot after a lengthy delay.
Drogheda doubled their lead just eight minutes later as Skinner’s long kick out was only partially cleared by Mark Coyle into the path of Purdy who burst past two defenders before firing the ball into the far corner.
The visitors had a glorious chance to go in at 2-1 when Ciaran O’Connor’s ambitious strike deflected off Kevin Farragher across goal for Michael O’Connor but the big forward fluffed his lines.
The Boynesiders controlled proceedings after half-time and they came close to cinching victory on 68 minutes when Rossiter’s clever pass to the back post found McCaffrey and his strike had Gallagher beaten only for a recovering Harps defender to clear.
Harps’ first genuine chance of the second-half came three minutes later when Adam Duffy played Michael O’Connor through and he initially rounded Skinner only for the Drogheda keeper to recover and smother the shot.
Ollie Horgan’s side forced a series of corners late on and they eventually pierced the Drogheda goal as substitute O’Flynn forced the ball beyond Skinner at his near post but it mattered little as Drogheda held on for all there points.
A third win in four games leaves the Drogs top of the First Division after four games and they’ll be looking to build on this momentum when they face Cabinteely at Stradbrook Road on Friday.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Kevin Farragher, Luke Gallagher, Ciaran Kelly; Mark Doyle, Richie Purdy (Kealen Dillon 76’), Luke Rossiter, Jake Hyland, Conor Kane; Chris Lyons (Gareth McCaffrey 17’), Stephen Meaney
Substitutes: Luca Gratzer, Lloyd Buckley, James Carroll, Victor Ekanem, Sean Brennan
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher;Aidan Friel, Sam Todd, Keith Cowan, Lee Toland; Mark Timlin, Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Mark Hannon 70’), Eric Whelan (Adam Duffy 46’), Ciaran O’Connor (John O’Flynn 78’); Michael O’Connor
Substitutes: Peter Burke, Gareth Doherty, Ryan Finn, Tommy McBride
DroghedaUnited.ie Man of the match: Conor Kane