Bohemians foil nine-man Drogs in pulsating finale
Drogheda United 2
CHAMPIONS Bohemians preserved their 100pc record -- but they needed three late goals and two Drogheda sendings-off to deny the Boynesiders at the newly-named Hunky Dorys Park.
Five minutes from time Alan Mathews' men led 2-1 thanks to second-half goals from Paul Crowley and Joe Kendrick, from the penalty spot, but Bohs turned it around to plunder the points in a controversial finish.
The turning point was Kendrick's second yellow card for handball, while John Flood also saw red for the Drogs as goals from Jason Byrne, Gareth McGlynn and Paddy Madden turned the game completely on its head.
Bohemians seemed to miss the presence of former Drogheda players Brian Shelley and Steven Gray in their defence and Drogheda made an encouraging start, forcing a fifth-minute corner from which Crowley steered a header narrowly over Gypsies' 'keeper Chris O'Connor's crossbar.
Bohemians seemed content to wait for a counter-attacking opportunity, but when McGlynn cleverly gained a yard of space on the right flank in the 17th minute, he blasted high and wide.
The visitors' defending from set-pieces was poor and Crowley nodded a corner straight at O'Connor, before the 'keeper saved superbly at point-blank range from a Jamie Harris head-flick off Kendrick's dangerous free-kick.
Another chance went begging on 24 minutes when Gareth O'Connor's deep cross picked out Flood who escaped his marker but couldn't direct his header on target.
So it was totally against the run of play when the visitors got their noses in front on 32 minutes. Gareth O'Connor was booked for a late tackle on Killian Brennan, and Paul Keegan's free-kick picked out Jason Byrne, who sent a looping header beyond helpless Drogheda 'keeper Paul Skinner.
Sensing an opportunity to extend their advantage, Bohs dominated the remainder of the first half and McGlynn, Mark Quigley and Paddy all saw glimpses of the Drogheda goal but just couldn't hit the target.
Madden had only just come off the bench, replacing the injured Brennan.
The Gypsies continued to be in the ascendancy after the break, but they struggled to break down a resolute defence -- although Skinner had to be alert to push Keegan's driven cross-shot over the crossbar.
Drogheda were richly rewarded for that resilience as they equalised on 62 minutes. Harris knocked down Alan McNally's cross into the path of Crowley who lashed the ball to the Bohs net.
A Keegan header was correctly ruled out for offside on 69 minutes, but that was nothing compared to the drama that was to come in the final quarter.
Conor Powell's foul on Glen Fitzpatrick resulted in a Drogheda penalty, and after three Bohs players were booked for their vociferous protests, Kendrick stepped up to confidently smash home the resulting penalty-kick on 75 minutes.
But the Boynesiders' left-back then blocked McGlynn's piledriver with his arm and was sent off for a second yellow card on 86 minutes and a minute later Byrne's fierce shot from the byeline went in off Skinner.
Flood followed his team-mate down the tunnel 60 seconds later, also for a second yellow, and McGlynn headed Bohs in front immediately before Madden tapped in their fourth deep into stoppage-time.
Drogheda United -- Skinner, King, McNally, Harris, Kendrick; Duffy (Martin 46), Crowley, O'Connor, B McGill, Fitzpatrick, Flood.
Bohemians -- O'Connor, Rossiter (Cretaro 81), Heary, Oman, Powell, McGlynn, Keegan, Cronin, Brennan (Madden 41), Byrne, Quigley (A Murphy 65).
Ref -- Neil Doyle (Dublin).