Thursday 26 April 2018

Brennan duo do business as Drogs make sweet music

THE Maiden City was the venue for the Fleadh Ceoil at the weekend, but a very flat footed Derry team were outdone by a more nimble Drogheda United for the second time in two weeks as the Boynesiders pushed themselves further away from the relegation battle.

Cathal Brady in particular had his dancing shoes on as the winger gave former Drog, Eoghan Osborne a torrid time with a barrage of runs at the left back.

Friday night's game was the sixth meeting of Derry and Drogheda this season with The Boynesiders having eliminated their hosts from the Setanta Cup and most recently the semi-final of the EA Sports Cup and despite the old saying 'familiarity breeds contempt,' this was another game played in a competitive but open style.

Talks of a relegation battle have become muted in the last few weeks as Drogheda's resurgence continues from strength to strength. The Boynesiders are now firmly in mid-table with a game in hand, they trail Cork City by the solitary point while Shamrock Rovers are only seven ahead.

The victory marks six unbeaten games for Drogheda since their Europa League exit and when defence seemed to have been a real issue in the first two-thirds of the season, there have now been four clean sheets in the last six games.

Mick Cooke gave Philip Hand a rare start as Shane Grimes was suspended while Alan Byrne returned to a more central defensive role in place of Alan McNally as the Drogheda manager retained the rest of the side who starred in the 3-0 win over Limerick the previous week.

It was the home side though who started the brighter, Rory Patterson in-particular had a few half-chances, but Drogheda's willingness to rove forward almost paid dividends on 15 minutes. Cathal Brady had got the measure of Osborne on the wing and the midfielder rounded the defender before sending the ball to the back post and Gavin Brennan's header was just wide of the upright.

Minutes later and Declan O'Brien beat the Derry offside trap but Ger Doherty was out quick to save from the striker as Drogheda continued to press. Mick Daly is not a player to go down easy, but when a rogue Sean Houston elbow caught the defender on the head, opening him up, there was a slight stoppage as a change of jersey and a bandage was required.

Derry appeared to bounce back from their EA Sports Cup defeat to Drogheda by trouncing UCD at the Bellfied Bowl, Rory Patterson bagging a brace in that game, but the league's leading scorer will be left scratching his head at how his team didn't open the scoring on the half-hour mark.

Shane McEleney played a spectacular 70 yard cross field pass to Patterson won controlled before flashing a shot at goal, however, it was blocked only to fall to Higgins who blazed over from close range.

Derry were made to pay for that eight minutes later, a mix-up in the defence allowed Declan O'Brien race through and muscle Simon Madden off the ball before firing a shot at Doherty which the keeper could only deflect into the path of Gavin Brennan who had made a determined run into the box and he leapt over Madden to power his header home.

Michael Schlingermann went almost completely untested throughout the game, such was the dominance of the back-four, Derek Prendergast marshalled the defence well while Alan Byrne played a real enforcer role.

Mick Daly in particular was kept busy on the wing, but he cut out attack after attack before propelling forward when possible.

Derry may have started well in the second-half, but Ryan McBride was the only thing denying David Cassidy a goal as the defender was back to clear off the line, Cassidy then turned provider for Ryan Brennan but the midfielders header was just over at the back post.

The game was wrapped up seven minutes into the second-half, a through ball, going away from goal, was chased down by Ryan Brennan and Shane McEleney came across to barge him off the ball leaving Alan Kelly with no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Having netted a rather cheeky Panenka penalty last week, Ryan stepped up but finished in a more orthodox style.

Derry threw on Barry Molloy and Barry McNamee in an effort to chase the game, but despite upping the tempo slightly, The Candystripes offered very little in the final third. With time running out, Mick Daly almost added a third as he was up in the box to direct a powerful header goalwards, but Ger Doherty got behind the shot to save.

The win will no doubt place Drogheda in good stead for their FAI Cup fourth round match against Longford Town on Saturday at the City Calling Stadium, kick-off 7:45pm.

Drogheda Independent