Card-happy ref steals derby show
THERE may have been four goals, a sending off, eight yellow cards and two players ferried away to hospital but this Louth derby was neither high on quality nor packed with meaty challenges.
Instead, it was the officials who dominated post-match discussion, with neither camp happy with referee Damien Hancock although it was Drogheda who made the short trip down the M1 feeling hard done by after Michael Daly's dismissal turned this game on its head.
The Boynesiders were two goals ahead and comfortable until the former Oriel Park favourite was given his marching orders in the 62nd minute for kicking the ball away, an offence which was responsible for most of the cautions with the whistle- happy Hancock getting plenty of screen time in this televised encounter.
Dundalk, who were terrible until that point, responded strongly to level matters and nearly stole all three points with player/assistant Wayne Hatswell hitting the bar from distance in a frantic finale. Yet even their manager Ian Foster admitted that such an outcome would have been a travesty.
However, he argued that Drogheda had been time-wasting throughout. "I don't know how the referee only added three minutes at the end, when I thought Joe Kendrick was taking three minutes on his own to take throw-ins," said Foster.
However, his counterpart Alan Mathews reckoned that several Dundalk players were fortunate to escape punishment for similar crimes. "You're looking for consistency," he argued, while choosing his words about Hancock's display carefully. "There wasn't a malicious tackle in that game."
After a dreadful loss to UCD last Friday, Mathews needed a response here and he won the tactical battle from the outset with his choice to start John Flood wide on the left in a 4-5-1, exposing a Dundalk side who are still adapting to Foster's preferred 3-5-2.
They were clumsy and disjointed, and deserved to be two behind after 20 minutes with Glen Fitzpatrick opening the scoring before linesman Marc Douglas advised Hancock to award a penalty when a Brendan McGill cross struck Tommy Miller's hand. Kendrick converted. By that stage, Drogheda's Corey Treacy and Dundalk's Alan Cawley were bound for hospital after sustaining blows to the head in separate incidents, with the former knocked out cold. He was still more alert at that point than the hosts, who received a half-time lashing from Foster.
The Lilywhites received a double boost in the space of a minute with Daly ordered off and Douglas interjecting again to award another spot kick with Brian King handling in almost identical circumstances to Miller.
Neale Fenn stuck that away and was subsequently crucial to the equaliser, launching a volley that was carelessly spilled by visiting 'keeper Paul Skinner into the path of ex-Drog Fahrudin Kuduzuvic who duly finished.
Dundalk (3-5-2): Cherrie; Breen, Burns, Hatswell; Kelly, Melligan, Cawley (Miller 16), Maher, Gaynor; Kuduzuvic, Fenn.
Drogheda (4-5-1): Skinner; Treacy (Duffy 7), Harris, McNally, Kendrick; McGill, Daly, King, O'Connor, Flood; Fitzpatrick (Brennan 83)
Referee: D Hancock (Dublin)