By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United have slipped to third in the First Division table after they lost 1-0 to Finn Harps at United Park.
A series of missed chances came back to haunt the Drogs as John O’Flynn netted a 90th minute winner for the fortunate visitors as United suffered their first home defeat of the season.
Drogheda boss Tim Clancy made two changes from the side that defeated Cobh Ramblers last week as Sean Brennan and Jake Hyland returned from suspension in place of Kealan Dillon and Lee Duffy.
It was Harps who looked the more dangerous side early on and Drogs keeper Paul Skinner was called into action after only three minutes as he got down well to parry Mark Coyle’s close range strike.
The hosts created little of note in the opening exchanges with both Mark Doyle and Gareth McCaffrey seeing tame headers fail to test Ciaran Gallagher in goal.
Drogheda’s best attack of the first-half arrived shortly before the interval as one-touch passing down the left hand side resulted in Richie Purdy’s powerful strike bringing out a fine one-handed save from Gallagher.
The Boynesiders started the second period with more intensity to their play and they were unfortunate not to break the deadlock when McCaffrey reacted quickest to Hyland’s cross but he couldn’t keep his strike on target.
A deflected 30-yard free-kick from Sean Brennan was captured at the second attempt by Gallagher before Harps hit the bar following a misjudgement in the air from Skinner with Kelly saving his blushes by clearing off the line.
The hosts had asserted their dominance by the hour mark as they created and then missed a series of goalscoring chances with McCaffrey first going close after good build-up play from Hyland.
Ciaran Gallagher was again called into action just two minutes later as he showed strong hands to parry Brennan’s strike from the edge of the box with the resulting corner coming to nothing.
Drogheda’s best opening came with a quarter of an hour to go as Kelly’s cross from the left was expertly chested by Lyons into the path of Doyle who saw his first time shot magnificently denied by the busy Gallagher.
United continued to throw more bodies forward in search of a winner but Doyle was once again left frustrated as he fired over the bar with the Harps keeper stranded.
There was to be a twist in the tale as in the final minute of normal time, a ricochet from a tackle fell perfectly for substitute O’Flynn who used all of his experience to lift the ball over Skinner from close range and into the far corner for the winner.
A sickening blow for the Drogs who will have to lift themselves for next week’s clash with fellow promotion hopefuls Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
Drogheda United Team: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy, Kevin Farragher, Luke Gallagher. Ciaran Kelly; Sean Brennan (Robert Manley 87’), Richie Purdy, Jake Hyland; Mark Doyle, Gareth McCaffrey (Lee Duffy 72’), Chris Lyons
Subs: Luca Gratzer, Lloyd Buckley, Kealan Dillon, Victor Ekanem, William Hondermarck
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Aidan Friel, Keith Cowan, Gareth Harkin, Sam Todd; Mark Coyle (Niall McGinley 30’), Paddy McCourt (Nathan Boyle 45’), Jesse Devers (John O’Flynn 87’), Mark Timlin, Lee Toland; Mikey Place
Subs: Peter Burke, Mark Harmon
DroghedaUnited.ie Man of the Match: Jake Hyland