Dundalk 1 - 2 Drogheda United
Drogheda United went into the mid-season break in the best possible fashion, with a 2-1 win over Dundalk at Oriel Park. Well taken goals from Sean Brennan and Paul Crowley gave the Boynesiders the edge in an entertaining game containing many chances at both ends. Indeed where it not for the heroics of Gabriel Sava the end result could have been very different indeed.
Despite the game being televised live on RTE there was a healthy away support in attendance, possibly sensing that it was a great opportunity to take three points from a Dundalk team that have been having problems on and off the field.
United started very brightly, with ‘man-of-the match’ Peter Hynes at the centre of many of the best moves. He saw his 25 yard drive dip over Dundalk keeper Peter Cherrie, only to crash off the crossbar. Drogheda also had an early chance that saw a Sean Brennan shot hit the side netting after he was played in by a neat pass from Fabio.
A suspension for Gavin Brennan forced Mick Cooke to shuffle his midfield. Sean and Ryan Brennan took up the wide positions with Eric Foley and Paul Crowley in the middle. For long periods of the first half this quartet bossed matters on the pitch, maintaining a high tempo and competing for every ball. Unfortunately too often the final pass was just not there, the unnatural and unpredictable surface playing its part.
Fabio had an excellent chance to open the scoring on the half hour mark, but could only direct his header over the bar. He also had claims for a penalty but referee Paul Tuite judged that he went down too easily.
As halftime approached Drogheda finally made the breakthrough. A free kick quickly taken by Ryan Brennan allowed Fabio deliver a perfect cross for Sean Brennan, he controlled well and calmly fired past Cherrie to send the away support into raptures. Indeed United could have made it 2-0 seconds later when Cherrie pulled off a fine save from Peter Hynes.
The second half was an entirely different affair. Dundalk came much more into the game with the Drogheda midfield being pushed deeper and deeper while Dundalk’s Chris Shields started to pull the strings for them.
Sava dealt comfortably enough with some long range efforts and the Drogheda centre half pairing of Prendergast and McNally performed heroics. Even so there was definitely a sense that the equaliser was only a matter of time. It arrived after 27 minutes when Paul Walsh jinked his way down the right hand side and pulled the ball back to the penalty spot. With the United defence caught out substitute Gary Shanahan could hardly have believed the space he found himself in and he coolly finished to draw his side level.
This spurred Drogheda back into life and within minutes they reclaimed the lead. Some neat passing set Ryan Brennan free on the right hand side of the Dundalk penalty area. His cross was met by a bullet header from Paul Crowley that gave Peter Cherrie absolutely no chance. Cue more wild celebrations on the terraces!
To their credit Dundalk didn’t let their heads drop and the really pushed to get a point, that they probably would have deserved, from the game. Gabriel Sava was called into action time after time. He pulled off three acrobatic saves, the best of which was from a Griffin shot that took a late deflection from a defender.
In a keenly contested derby match, that could never have been described as dirty, Dundalk saw five of their players booked. Drogheda had picked up two yellow cards. Eric Foley had been booked early in the second half for a shirt tug and this came back to haunt him when he saw a second yellow for a full blooded challenge as the game entered five minutes of added time.
Dundalk piled on the pressure for the last few minutes, but couldn’t carve out a clear chance. The Drogheda defence of Prendergast, McNally, Hand and Quigley worked hard and were very disciplined. Derek Prendergast in particular dominated, winning every ball in the air.
The final whistle was greeted with delight by those supporters who made the trip to Oriel. What better night to get back to winning ways in the League?
The result pushed Drogheda into 4th place in the table, only two points off second, as we enter the mid-season break. For Mick Cooke and his players it’s a chance to recharge the batteries. He can only be pleased with the way this new team has developed. Drogheda find themselves competing at the right end of the table and are still in the mix for both the League and FAI Cups.