Drama in Drogheda as stunning comeback relegates Wexford
Drogheda 3 Wexford Youths 0 (Drogheda win 3-2 on aggregate)
First, they lost Lee Chin. Then, reports emerged that they are about to lose their manager Shane Keegan to Galway United. But what Wexford Youths needed to hold onto most of all was the two-goal lead they brought to Drogheda tonnight.
They were incapable of doing so as a remarkable comeback capped by a contentious penalty resulted in pandemonium and celebrations at a heaving United Park as Pete Mahon brought Drogheda United back to the top flight.
Wexford were furious at the end with confusion over a disallowed goal adding to their anger.
But in the cold light of day, they will wonder quite how they ended up letting this one slip away.
They were the better side in the early exchanges and could have gone out of sight only for a fine stop from keeper Stephen McGuinness to push away Danny Furlong’s header. It came at a cost with Lloyd Buckley stretchered off after injuring himself clearing to safety but his replacement Kevin Farragher would be a key man.
The long delay was responsible for the four added minutes at the end of the half and Drogheda would end up breaking the deadlock during that period.
It came after a spell of pressure. Sean Brennan engineered a short corner, and seized possession again to unleash a left footer that sailed into the net with Graham Doyle rooted to the spot.
Mark Griffin should have levelled things up after the restart but just after the loss of Brennan to an arm injury Farragher (pictured) rose highest to dispatch another corner.
That set up a thrilling finale with chances at both ends. Sean Thornton came in for Brennan and threatened but Wexford were frustrated by McGuinness again when he brilliantly denied Gary Delaney’s close-range effort.
And they paid for the profligacy when Graham Kelly pointed to the spot for a foul on Griffin and Thornton calmly converted.
Wexford celebrated an equaliser that was chalked off by Kelly as confusion reigned and it kicked off a breathless finale where McGuinness again denied Furlong and sub Shane Dempsey dithered over an empty net with Farragher getting back to block.
Drogheda held out to prompt a pitch invasion and start a party which continued into the night.
Drogheda – McGuinness, Deasy, Gallagher, Buckley (Farragher 20), Dunne; Brennan (Thornton 55), Purdy; Wixted (Ashe 89), Hyland, McCaffrey; Griffin
Wexford Youths – Doyle, McCabe, Delaney, Grace, O’Connor (Dempsey 85); Whittle (Friel 85), Kenny (Dunne 85), Bonner, Keenan; Murphy, Furlong
Ref – G Kelly (Cork)