Wednesday 16 October 2019

It's a walk in the park against the Ramblers

Soccer: SSE Airtricity league division 1 - Drogheda Utd 4 Cobh Ramblers 0

Marcus Cavaroli at United Park

Drogheda United produced an absolute masterclass in attacking play as they celebrated their first outing in the new red jerseys with a thumping opening-night win on Friday last.

The result means that for the second year running they've gone into week two of the campaign as league leaders, but of more significance here was the impressive way they clicked from day one and bamboozled Cobh Ramblers with their slick one-touch football.

In fairness, the Cork men's chances of causing an upset were significantly reduced when a broken-down team bus meant they didn't arrive at United Park until 25 minutes before the scheduled kick-off, which was then delayed by about seven minutes after consultations with match referee Ben Connolly.

Afterwards, Cobh manager Stephen Henderson claimed in a tweet that the treatment of his players had been 'disgusting', pointing out that they had only 10 minutes to warm up after what turned into a five and a half hour journey. The bus actually broke down again on the way home.

Drogheda, though, certainly weren't about to show their visitors any mercy as they attacked from the first whistle.

Inside 60 seconds Mark Doyle took a long pass from Luke Gallagher in his stride and took a touch before striking a good shot that was pushed round the post by goalkeeper Paul Hunt.

The resulting corner came to nothing, but the Drogs were soon awarded a free kick in a dangerous position after the first of several late tackles on Thomas Byrne, with Stephen Kenny the culprit on this occasion.

Sean Brennan was off target from the set piece but subsequently rolled a corner kick to the edge of the box, from where Adam Wixted had his shot blocked in the crowded area.

Drogheda didn't have to wait much longer for their opening goal as eight minutes were on the clock when Mark Hughes played a ball through the middle for Byrne and he teed up Doyle who side-footed with conviction past Hunt from 12 yards.

For the next half-hour the Drogs pummelled Stephen Henderson's men, hungry for more goals, with all their midfielders and forwards linking superbly.

A feature of their play was that Chris Lyons was receiving the ball to feet rather than having to contest possession in the air, which often seemed to be the case last year, and one such low pass from Brennan led to a good goal attempt from the striker that was well clutched by Hunt.

Doyle then gained a yard on his marker before having a shot blocked, before a rare attack from Cobh on 17 minutes resulted in a deep cross from the right that was bravely headed behind by Drogs right-back James Brown, with Denzil Fernandes lurking behind him.

Byrne was back on defensive duty to head the resulting corner kick clear and Drogheda soon created another chance as Lyons played a one-two with Brennan, running onto a clever back-heel before having his shot saved by Hunt.

A third foul on Byrne just past the 25-minute mark led to Drogheda's second goal, although they had a helping hand from the luckless Hunt.

From some 35 yards out Brennan curled a weak-looking free kick over the wall towards the keeper, who should have held it comfortably. Instead, though, he fumbled the ball onto the inside of the post and Lyons was onto the rebound in a flash to fire home from just inside the six-yard box - 2-0.

The keeper recovered his composure to tip another long-range shot - this one a fine effort from Mark Hughes - over the bar, before Drogs netminder Paul Skinner had to stretch to keep out an awkward Kenny cross.

That was a gentle reminder that the game wasn't won yet, but Cobh's chances of mounting a fightback suffered a serious setback in the 36th minute.

Their lone striker Cian Leonard, who had been well shepherded all evening by Luke McNally, already had a booking to his name for dissent and when he clattered into McNally again after the ball had gone, he left referee Connolly with no option but to issue a second yellow card.

Ironically, the visitors conjured their one shot on target in the game a minute later, with Ian Turner's tame long-range effort easily held by Skinner.

However, it was all Drogheda coming up to half-time and the diminutive Lyons did brilliantly to test Hunt with a header after a fine cross by Brown.

Then it was the full-back on the opposite side, Kane, who got forward and his high cross dropped onto the crossbar before being scrambled clear.

Moments before the short whistle Drogheda should have scored their third, at the end of a superb flowing move. Brennan, Brown and Wixted were all involved before Byrne slipped the ball through to Lyons.

The centre-forward's first attempt was blocked by namesake Charlie Lyons, the Cobh defender, before he blasted the rebound over the bar with an open goal in front of him.

The Drogs looked to be in no mood to sit back on their lead on the restart and Byrne, Brennan and Kane combined to set up Doyle who flashed a left-foot shot into the side netting.

Tim Clancy's men then put the game to bed with a deserved third goal in the 48th minute. Hughes and Kane started the move before the latter fed Doyle and he switched play to the right where Wixted took a touch before rifling a shot to the net from 10 yards.

Inevitably the chances kept coming as Drogheda exploited the extra space against Cobh's 10 men and a delightful chip from Byrne teed up Lyons who couldn't get a clean shot away as the ball bobbled awkwardly.

Charlie Lyons bravely threw himself in the way of a Wixted shot following great play from Byrne, Doyle and Kane, and Chris Lyons was then foiled by another defensive block before Byrne fired over the bar coming up to the hour mark.

Brennan had limped off with a leg injury at this stage, to be replaced by Bellewstown native Luke Heeney, but still the Drogs opened up the Cobh defence time and again.

Doyle got a sight of goal after being teed up by Wixted, but his first tough was slightly too heavily and that allowed Hunt narrow the angle and make a fine block.

Byrne's temper was being tested to the full as he was floored again - this time by a kick from Stephen O'Connor which earned him only a booking - and then got a yellow himself for a very innocuous challenge.

He got a shot on target in the 76th minute - Hunt denied him with another save - before being substituted, earning one of the most rapturous receptions from the home fans ever heard at United Park.

The game looked to be petering out at that stage, but there was still time for one more goal.

Substitute James Clarke, who made a big impact in his 15 minutes on the field, nearly got on the scoresheet with a blocked header after unselfishly being set up by Lyons. But in the final seconds Drogheda put the icing on the cake as Wixted released Clarke, and although his cross wasn't inch-perfect for Doyle, the Skerries man drifted infield and crashed a low shot to the net, via the inside of the post.

Drogheda Independent