Teenager Evan McLaughlin nets decisive spotkick as Derry City progress in the FAI Cup

Derry City 1 Drogheda United 1 (Derry City win 4-2 on penalties)

Saturday, 24th July 2021, 6:42 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th July 2021, 6:44 pm
Evan McLaughlin is mobbed by his teammates after confidently converting the decisive fifth penalty in the shootout to see Derry City progress to the second round. Photographs by Kevin Moore.

TEENAGER Evan McLaughlin converted the decisive fifth penalty in a dramatic shootout to send Derry City marching into the second round of the FAI Cup at the expense of nine man Drogheda United in a thrilling tie at the Head in the Game Park.

Nathan Gartside saved twice to give Derry the upper hand after James Akintunde crashed his spotkick off the underside of the crossbar and substitute McLaughlin confidently fired into the top corner, to spark wild celebrations among the visiting party.

It was a full-blooded cup tie that had everything with penalties not given, penalties scored and three sendings off as Dane Massey, James Brown and Drogheda manager Tim Clancy all saw red for their respective offences.

In the end it was Derry who held their nerve to book their place in the next round with a 4-2 penalty shootout win.

The hard pitch wasn't conducive to free-flowing football with the recent warm weather taking its toll and neither side could stamp their authority on proceedings during the early stages.

Derry enjoyed plenty of the ball but it was the home side who created the best of the chances.

Six minutes in and Darragh Markey made progress down Derry's left side before cutting the ball back into the path of Corcoran but his first time shot from 12 yards was tipped over the bar by Gartside.

Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe did well to beat his man on the left wing before finding Will Fitzgerald and his shot on the turn was charged down bravely by Dane Massey. The ball broke to Lafferty but his first time effort sailed harmlessly over the bar from just inside the area.

At the other end Markey crossed dangerously into the Derry penalty area and Corcoran's glancing header went just wide of the target on 22 minutes.

Derry had a stone-wall penalty claim denied on 38 minutes when Gary Deegan crashed into Ronan Boyce just outside the six yard box but somehow referee Paul McLaughlin saw nothing in the challenge and waved play on much to the dismay of Derry boss Ruaidhri Higgins.

And on the stroke of half-time Drogheda hit the front from a long Massey throw-in deep inside the Derry half which found the run of Killian Philips who ghosted into the box before crossing towards the ack post where Corcoran applied the finish,

Derry began the second half with urgency and Colin McCabe misjudged the flight of Joe Thomson's cross from the left. It fell to Fitzgerald but he screwed his shot and the ball was eventually cleared.

From a quick break the ball was played out wide to James Brown who raced towards goal before testing Gartside with a well struck effort which was parried clear by the City keeper.

Drogheda were down to 10 men on 53 minutes when Massey saw red for handling the ball on the line to deny Akintunde a certain goal.

Up stepped Junior to take the resultant penalty, fresh from scoring his spotkick against Shamrock Rovers last week. However, despite sending McCabe the wrong way, the Derry striker crashed his shot off the post.

Harkin tried his luck from distance with the follow-up but his effort sailed high over the bar.

City boss Higgins went to his bench for another striking option in a desperate attempt to make something happen with Patrick Ferry replacing defender Ciaran Coll for the final half hour.

The Co. Louth men threatened from a corner kick on 67 minutes when Markey's cross was met by the head of Philips but it went the wrong side of the post.

James Akinunde was denied by an instinctive save by the feet of McCabe at his near post after the striker nipped the ball off the toe of Philips inside the penalty area on 71 minutes.

Derry were pressing for the equaliser and substitute Evan McLaughlin did well to pick out Thomson who struck his shot well but it was saved comfortably by McCabe.

Drogheda were denied a penalty on 82 minutes when Brown appeared to be pulled down by a Derry defender but the referee produced a second yellow card for simulation.

That decision sparked outrage among the Drogheda bench and manager Clancy was shown two yellow cards in quick succession for dissent.

The fourth official showed five additional minutes to be played and on 95 minutes Junior was recklessly barged by Luke Heeney inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.

The experienced Lafferty took responsibility with just 30 seconds left of additional time and he made no mistake as he tucked away his penalty to force extra-time and keep Derry's season alive.

Derry were camped in Drogheda's final third for the entirety of the first half of extra time but the home side defended doggedly.

Derry sub Ferry was clean through on goal with three minutes of extra time remaining as McCabe came off his line but the striker's lobbed effort went over the bar.

Moments later Orrin McLaughlin's superbly hit free-kick on the edge of the box struck the foot of the post with McCabe beaten.

It proved the last action of extra-time with the tie to be decided on the dreaded shootout.

Joe Thomson was up first and sent the keeper the wrong way with a confident penalty before Jake Hyland got Drogheda level. Junior, who missed his penalty during the 90 minutes, bravely stepped up to make amends and fired into the top corner to nudge Derry in front once more.

Gartside saved brilliantly from James Clarke before Cameron McJannet put Derry into the driving seat with a well taken penalty. Luke Heeney made it 3-2 before Akintunde's rebounded off the crossbar. Philips was then denied by the inspired Gartside before Evan McLaughlin belied his teenage years by powering his shot into the back of the net despite the huge pressure on his shoulders.

It was a dramatic end to the cup tie as Derry booked their place in Tuesday's second round draw.

Drogheda Utd: C. McCabe: K. Philips, D. Massey, M. Hughes (H. Douglas 88); J. Brown, D. Markey (J. Hyland 95), G. Deegan, R. Murray (L. Heeney 77), M. Doyle (J. Clarke 59), C. Kane; D Corcoran (J. Adeyemo 90); Subs Not Used - D. Odumosu, M. Boudiaf, B. Bermingham, C. Mutawe.

Derry City: N Gartside: E. Toal, C. McJannet, C. Coll (P. Ferry 63); R. Boyce (D. Cole 86), J. Thomson, C. Harkin (M. Harris 74) D. Lafferty (O. McLaughlin 105); J. Akintunde, W. Fitzgerald (E. McLaughin 74), J. Ogedi-Uzokwe; Subs Not Used - J. Lemoignan, M. McChrystal, C. Porter, B.Barr.

Referee - Paul McLaughlin.