DERRY City may have dropped two valuable points at the Brandywell Stadium last night, but they could so easily have lost this game against Drogheda United.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Photographs: Lorcan Doherty
Derry’s problems were due to uncharacteristic defensive frailties during the opening period and 2-0 down at the break, Stephen Kenny’s side had a mountain to climb.
Given that they required a fortuitous own goal four minutes from the end to save a point, their unbeaten record has stretched to 15 games, but the initiative may now have passed to their title challengers.
Derry again started slowly, Drogheda having silenced the home crowd within three minutes of the kick-off when breaking the deadlock from a corner.
Lee Lynch floated the ball towards the back post where the unmarked Brian Gannon headed the ball into the net off the Derry crossbar.
The goal stunned the home lot into action and before five minutes had elapsed Barry Molloy narrowly missed the target with a powerful shot while a Gareth McGlynn header bounced off the top of the crossbar.
In the 35th minute the home side really should have levelled matters following a superb crossfield move. Patrick McEleney swept the ball across the face of goal but the inrushing Stephen McLaughlin opted for power and crashed his shot off the upright.
And despite all Derry’s pressure, the visitors doubled their lead in the 37th minute, again following a set-piece situation.
Lynch again floated in a corner from the left and, as the home defence failed to adequately clear the danger, the ball broke to Gavin Brennan whose effort appeared to take a deflection off a defender before finding the net.
Five minutes into the second half, Derry’s desperation saw Patrick McEleney booked for an alleged dive inside the penalty area as the ‘Candy Stripes’ pushed forward in search of a way back into the game.
After the break the home side struggled in the forward areas, the normal high tempo passing and movement appearing to desert Derry, with many players guilty of being wasteful when in possession.
Drogheda, always content to sit back, defend in numbers and hit on the break, were reaping dividends as Derry continued to huff and puff but fail miserably in front of goal.
Visiting centre-halves, Alan McNally and former Derry defender, Dave Rogers, commanded the aerial duels within their penalty area as the home side won corner after corner inside the final half hour.
In the 68th minute Stewart Greacen got onto the end of a Barry Molly cross but the Scot directed his header straight at the body of keeper, Robert Duggan for what was an easy save.
However, Gareth McGlynn gave Derry City hope in the 73rd minute when he headed the ball home to make it 2-1 after Ruairdhri Higgins’ shot had been blocked by a defender.
In the 86th minute, Derry levelled matters thanks to an own goal, when keeper Duggan appeared to parry a corner off the body of defender Dave Rogers to secure what could yet prove a vital point.
Derry City – Doherty; Molloy, S. McEleney (McBride, 79), Greacen, Lafferty; McGlynn, Deery, Higgins, McLaughlin; P. McEleney (McDaid, 60), Zayed.
Drogheda United – Duggan; Gaul, McNally, Rogers, Clarke; Brennan, McMahon, Gannon, Lynch, Hand (O’Brien, 78); White.
Referee - Mr. R. Winter (Wicklow).