Two first-half goals, Drogheda’s first of the New Year, were enough to give the Boynesiders all three points as they look to return to the Premier Division at the first time of asking. A 2-1 win at United Park in front of roughly 550 people will go some way to restoring the confidence lost in a disastrous season last year.
The hosts took the lead in the sixth minute when Aaron Molloy sprayed the ball out wide to Eoin Kirwan who in turn slipped in Jake Hyland and the former Bohs midfielder picked out Sam O’Connor who held off David O’Leary and shot low past the out stretched Corey Chambers to give the Drogs an early lead.
Five minutes later and Drogheda had another chance as Colm Deasy whipped in a ball from the right and the unmarked Aaron Ashe glanced his header wide of the near post. The pressure continued as Aaron Molloy broke into the box and got a shot off which Chambers blocked but into the path of the on-rushing Hyland, however David O’Leary cut across to launch the ball clear.
Waterford had to wait for the 15th minute for their opening salvo. Aaron O’Connor, wide on the right, played a low ball across the box and Anthony McAlvey, eight yards out in the middle of goal, fired a shot which was blocked on the line and scrambled clear.
On the half-hour mark Anthony McAlavey made a run from midfield into the box and crossed but his delivery was too high for Philip Gorman. Drogheda did show some naivety in defence. In particular with ten minutes left in the first half O’Connor was allowed into the box and cross, Drogheda struggled to deal with the delivery and the danger was eventually cleared when O’Connor fouled Niall Cooney.
The Boynesiders nearly had their second just before the half-time whistle, an incisive move which saw Sean Brennan thread a pass through to Aaron Ashe and the midfielder was clear but drifted wide and ultimately his shot was high into the side netting.
Waterford were lucky to finish the first-half with a 11 men as James O’Brien lunged in, two feet off the ground, but referee Adriano Reale brandished a yellow. The Blues were punished from the subsequent dead ball. Luke Gallagher launched the ball to the edge of the box where Derek Doyle headed it into the path of Sam O’Connor. The striker then steered the ball into the direction of Eoin Kirwan who finished from six yards out.
The Blues pulled one back inside the first sixty seconds of the re-start, a swift counter attack saw Shane Mackey break out from the back and play a long direct past to Eoin Rhodes on the edge of the box who turned into space and show low past Patrick Dunican.
A real piece of inventiveness as The Blues lofted a ball over the top for Eoin Rhodes to race onto, Dunican refused to come and the Waterford player got a shot off but luckily for the Drogs keeper it was a tame effort. The hosts failed to get to grips with the second-half as Waterford continued to attack.
The first chance for Drogheda came on 69 minutes when Jake Jake Hyland pumped a free into the box, the clearing header fell to Sean Brennan on the edge of the box and his half volley forced a smart save from Chambers.
Nerves began to set in for Drogheda, Luke Gallagher didn’t clear the ball and ultimately conceded a free. Anthony MacAlavey delivered it to the back post and Duncain allowed it go but Ian Sinnott had chased in to connect but his header was wide.
Chances then came thick and fast, a long range Sean Byrne shot was narrowly wide and at the other end Aaron Ashe lobbed Chambers but the ball wouldn’t drop under the crossbar.
The final ten minutes was very much one-way traffic as Waterford piled on the pressure, Sean Byrne had a chance from a free but he blazed his shot over in injury time.
Drogheda United travel to Cobh Ramblers next Saturday whilst Waterford United will play their first home game of the season against Limerick on Friday.
Drogheda United: Patrick Duncain; Derek Doyle, Niall Cooney, Luke Gallagher, Colm Deasy (Eoghan Dempsey 59); Eoin Kirwan, Sean Brennan (Mark Doyle 89), Aaron Molloy, Jake Hyland, Aaron Ashe (Jamie McGlynn 90); Sam O’Connor
Subs Not Used: Liam Donnelly, Stephen McGuinness, Ken Costello, Joseph Jackson,
Booked: Patrick Duncain (90+2)
Waterford United: Corey Chambers; Robert Buckley (Dean Reidy 83), Ian Sinnott, Shane Mackey; David O’Leary, Aaron O’Connor (Sean Byrne HT), James O’Brien, Eoin Rhodes (Dean Broaders 79), Anthony McAlavey; Philip Gorman
Subs Not Used: Collum Nugent, Darren Murphy, Kevin Burns
Booked: James O’Brien (45), Anthony McAlavey (56), David O’Leary (68)
Referee: Adriano Reale
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Aaron Ashe (Drogheda United)