Monday 19 February 2018

Injury-time strike sore to take for Drogheda

Drogheda United 2 Galway United 2

Marcus Cavaroli

Drogheda United were kicking themselves over dropped points at home for the second week running after Galway struck in stoppage time on Friday night.

The Boynesiders looked to have snatched victory only 60 seconds earlier when Adam Wixted fired them into a 2-1 lead, but there was to be one more twist and on the balance of play a draw was the very least the Tribesmen deserved.

Seven days earlier Pete Mahon's team were denied victory by the excellence of former Drogs netminder Micheàl Schlingermann in the 1-1 stalemate with Sligo, but this latest display fell some way short of that and they paid the price.

In Drogheda's defence, there was misfortune before kick-off when both Sean Thornton and Killian Brennan were ruled out after falling victim to flu, and that meant a return to first-team action for Jake Hyland.

The latter made an encouraging start as Drogheda retained possession for some 20 passes before Gavin Brennan set up the former Bohemians man for a shot that was beaten away by Galway keeper Conor Winn.

Barely 60 seconds had elapsed at that stage, and Hyland was also the instigator of the Boynesiders' second chance as he swapped passes with Wixted before crossing towards Stephen Elliott who just failed to get a decisive touch in the crowded six-yard box.

Galway had still barely had a kick of the ball when Drogheda made the all-important breakthrough in the 10th minute. Hyland won a 50/50 ball with Gavan Holohan in his own half of the field and burst forward before squaring to the advancing Wixted.

The number 14 dribbled forward into shooting range before unleashing a fizzing 25-yard effort and Winn remained rooted to the spot as the ball nestled in the left-hand corner of the Galway net.

Unfortunately, the momentum gained by this encouraging start wasn't maintained and almost immediately Galway took a grip of possession, with Drogheda limited to occasional breaks out of defence.

They got their first shot away in the 14th minute when Shane Elworthy fouled Ronan Murray just outside the box and Stephen Folan's well-struck free kick was gathered at the second attempt by Stephen McGuinness.

Drogheda were guilty of conceding too many fouls in dangerous areas throughout the 90 minutes, while Galway's potency in attack also earned them a series of corner kicks that put the home side under considerable pressure.

McGuinness made his second significant save of the game on 23 minutes when Marc Griffin was dispossessed in midfield by Holohan and the ball was quickly worked forward to Murray whose low shot forced a smart stop from the keeper.

The Drogs did create a half-chance shortly after when Richie Purdy and Wixted linked up with Elworthy whose cross to the back post was volleyed wide by Gavin Brennan.

At the other end Folan headed wide from close range from a Mark Ludden corner, while Drogheda were also fortunate that their former star midfielder Holohan didn't have his shooting boots on as he was badly off target on several occasions.

Yet the hosts could have doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when Wixted linked up with Elliott and Griffin, who fired wide from eight yards.

The Drogheda management team's words of wisdom at the interval didn't seem to do the trick, though, and it was Galway - fresh from their shock win over Dundalk the week before - who went on to dominate the second half.

Folan inadvertently blocked teammate Lee Grace's header on the line from a Kevin Devaney corner and McGuinness then had to make a fine save to keep out a powerful hook shot as Holohan belatedly found his range.

In between, Wixted forced a decent stop from Winn after left-back Conor Kane had twice been involved in the build-up to the attack.

A horrible sliced pass by Hyland in the centre circle put his team under pressure and Ciaran McGuigan eventually scrambled the ball clear as Murray threatened to bring Galway level.

Kane then played a one-two with Griffin and dribbled into the box before going down when challenged by Grace, resulting in claims for a penalty which were turned down by referee Jim McKell.

Murray, Galway's most dangerous player, had a clear sight of goal on 67 minutes when he took possession in the box and wasn't closed down quickly enough, but fortunately for Drogheda his curling shot grazed the outside of the post.

The hosts almost conjured a lead goal in the 77th minute when Purdy let fly at the end of a counter-attack but saw his shot blocked superbly by Ludden.

However, Galway finally got the equaliser their overall play deserved on 82 minutes when their substitute Padraic Cunningham out-muscled Hyland and bore down on goal before firing low and hard past McGuinness.

The Tribesmen sensed that all three points might be there for the taking, but in their eagerness to hunt for a winner they left themselves open to fast breaks and Drogheda made them play just as the 90 minutes of normal time elapsed.

The attack was clinical in its execution and Gavin Brennan's perfectly cushioned header dropped nicely for the on-rushing Wixted who buried the ball past Winn for 2-1.

The loud roar that accompanied the goal seemed to indicate that the supporters felt Drogheda had snatched victory at the death, but barely five seconds after Galway had kicked off from the centre circle they had silenced the stunned home crowd.

The ball was played back to one of their centre-halves and he lumped it forward hopefully towards 88th-minute substitute Jesse Devers who fired past McGuinness for a dramatic equaliser.

It's said that a team is most vulnerable just after they've scored and here was the proof. Hopefully the experience will stand to Drogheda and they will take extra care to concentrate from restart kicks going forward.

Yes, the Boynesiders didn't play well overall, but for the second game running they needlessly dropped points and how different the table would look now had they put both Sligo and Galway to the sword.

Drogheda Independent

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