Monday 23 July 2018

Candystripes are Foyle-d by Drogheda goal feast

Drogheda United 4 Derry City 1

Marcus Cavaroli

Drogheda United took two points out of 18 in six top-flight games against Derry City and Bohemians last year but have now beaten both those teams in pre-season following this fine victory last Friday.

The friendly was originally planned to take place at the newly-refurbished Brandywell, but with the Derry venue not quite ready the game was switched to United Park at 48 hours' notice.

Manager Tim Clancy won't be reading too much into results in the first week of February, but he will be delighted nonetheless that his new squad appear to have hit the ground running ahead of their First Division campaign.

It's worth pointing out that Friday's starting XI contained only two first-team regulars from last season, and while Derry weren't at full strength their line-up still featured familiar names like Rory Patterson, Aaron McEneff and Nicky Low and they had put seven goals past Northern Ireland Juniors only two nights earlier.

Drogheda went into this game on the back of the 3-1 Jim Malone Cup defeat by Dundalk, but there were still plenty of positives to take away from that encounter at Oriel Park and they started on the front foot here, with Jake Hyland firing over the bar from just inside the box.

Indeed, just four minutes had elapsed when Drogheda struck the first blow in spectacular fashion.

Seven days earlier it was Lee Duffy who broke the deadlock against Dundalk with a brilliant shot from distance, and Kealan Dillon emulated his teammate here with another stunning 25-yard effort that left Derry keeper Eric Grimes with no chance.

Derry, wearing their green away jerseys, responded by creating a couple of opportunities, but the Boynesiders kept their goal intact courtesy of a clearance off the line and then a fine Paul Skinner save, diving to his left.

Just after the half-hour mark Drogheda doubled their advantage when captain Sean Brennan sent Grimes the wrong way from the penalty spot following a foul on Duffy just inside the box.

However, the Candystripes pulled a goal back on 39 minutes when Low dribbled forward from near the half-way line, beating a number of Drogheda players, before clipping an inviting ball to the back post for Ronan Hale to fire past Skinner from close range.

The Boynesiders delivered the perfect riposte, however, as 60 seconds later 19-year-old defender Ciaran Kelly's bullet header from a Brennan free kick made it 3-1.

The opening 25 minutes of the second half were pretty much dominated by a flurry of substitutions, although an over-hit back pass by Kevin Farragher nearly resulted in a goal for the Foylesiders, with substitute keeper Luca Gratzer just managing to scramble the ball clear.

A goal for the visitors at that stage would have set up an interesting finish, but instead it was Drogheda who made it 4-1.

Duffy, part of Drogheda's 2015 squad, had signed for the Boynesiders for the second time in his career earlier in the week and he celebrated by rounding the keeper and slotting home after another substitute, Stephen Meaney, had forced an error in the Derry defence.

The Candystripes' misery was complete when they had forward John Cofie sent off in bizarre circumstances following an off-the-ball incident.

In keeping with the friendly status of this game, the assistant referee had asked the Derry management to substitute the offending player instead, but their only remaining sub was a goalkeeper and they apparently refused, giving the match official no option but to brandish the red card at Cofie.

The beleaguered visitors were fortunate not to concede a fifth goal near the end when, first, Duffy had one ruled out for offside and then good work from James Carroll and Duffy set up a chance for Meaney whose shot hit the side netting.

DROGHEDA UNITED: Paul Skinner (Luca Gratzer 60); Lloyd Buckley (James Carroll 72), Victor Ekanem (Luke Gallagher 46), Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly; Kealan Dillon (Luke Rossiter 60), Jake Hyland, Sean Brennan (Richie Purdy 72); Lee Duffy, Chris Lyons (Stephen Meaney 60), Mark Doyle (Gareth McCaffrey 60). Subs not used: Jamie Quinn, Jordan Kelly.

DERRY CITY: Eric Grimes; Aaron McEneff (Dapo Kayode 46), Darren Cole (Scott Whiteside 46), Eoin Toal, Ben Doherty; Jamie McDonagh (Chris Turner 46), Ronan Hale, Nicky Low, Rory Hale (Jamie McIntyre 61); Rory Patterson (Adrian Delap 61), John Cofie. Sub not used: Jason McCallion.

Drogheda Independent