Drogheda United got their 2019 campaign off to a terrific start after defeating Cobh Ramblers 4-0 at United Park on Friday night. Mark Doyle (2), Chris Lyons and Adam Wixted provided the goals for United on what turned out to be a comfortable win for Tim Clancy's men.
Cobh, who only arrived at the ground at 7.25pm due to multiple breakdowns of their bus, never got started and it showed in the opening stages. Ramblers were sluggish and lethargic but their counterparts started quickly and looked to score early.
The opening goal didn’t take long to come. An punt up the pitch was chested down calmly by Drogheda centre-half Luke Gallagher who found Mark Hughes. Hughes quickly got his head up and switched a lovely cross-field ball to Thomas Byrne. He controlled neatly before dribbling inside and slotting in Mark Doyle who had made a darting run from the inside left position. Doyle was composed as he opened his body before slotting in past the on-rushing Paul Hunt in the Ramblers goal after eight minutes.
Hughes and skipper Sean Brennan began to dictate the game in the double pivot position in midfield. Cobh's Shane O’Connor and Dave Hurley couldn’t get close and Drogheda started to push their full-backs high up the pitch, pinning back the opposition wingers.
United pressed high up the pitch and didn’t allow Cobh any opportunity to play out from the back. This led to Thomas Byrne winning a free-kick in the 28th minute about 37 yards out from goal as a result of James Browne winning the ball back high up the pitch.
Brennan produced a strike that should have been routine for the Cobh ‘keeper, however Hunt's mishandling led to the ball rebounding off the post into the lap of Chris Lyons where he finished comfortably inside the six-yard box.
Wixted, Byrne and Doyle provided major problems for Cobh all night as they couldn’t deal with their incisive movement, quick interchanging and delicate passing.
In the 37th minute things went from bad to worse for the Ramblers as Cian Leonard picked up a second yellow card after a mistimed challenge on Luke McNally. Leonard’s first yellow had been seven minutes previous for a late foul on another Drogs defender.
Cobh now sent Ian Turner up top and played with two banks of four to protect the goalkeeper. Drogheda continued to press and were nearly rewarded four minutes before half-time. Neat link-up play from Byrne and Lyons provided Lyons with a great chance to make it three, however he was denied first on the line by a last-minute block from Charlie Lyons and then scooped his second effort high over the bar.
The second half started much like the first with United, who are celebrating their centenary season, racing out of the blocks. United's passing was slick, and tempo was high. Cobh looked like they were still on their bus.
Mark Hughes who was almost playing the ‘quarterback’ position sent the ball out to left full-back Conor Kane. Kane, who was magnificent all night, dribbled inside before neat interplay between himself and Doyle found Doyle dribbling towards the box. He then found Wixted who had cut in from the left. He stood his man up before firing high into the roof of the net. The goal was a well-worked team goal and testament to what Clancy and his backroom staff had worked on pre-season.
Brennan picked up an injury eleven minutes into the second half and was replaced by Luke Heeney. Clancy spoke briefly after the game and offered a quick update on the talisman saying that he had received a “knee to the outside of his (Brennan) knee” and hoped that it was “nothing too serious.”
To their credit Ramblers dug in and got a foothold in the game but were unable to test Paul Skinner in the Drogheda goal.
Clancy knew the game was won and replaced Hughes with Cian Kavanagh and Byrne with James Clarke. Byrne was a standout performer and went off to a rapturous reception from the United faithful.
In the 93rd minute United attained the icing on the cake as Doyle finished off a wonderful night for the home side as he got on the end of a cross from the exciting James Clarke. Doyle controlled a high dropping ball with his left, cut inside in the same process and unleashed a bullet with his right which fired in off the far post about 12 yards out from goal.
Joy for Drogheda United and their fans as their start their push for promotion with a win. For Stephen Henderson's Cobh Ramblers, it’s a long spin home, but they will hope to move on quickly and bounce back next week at home to Athlone Town.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner, James Browne, Luke Gallagher, Luke McNally, Conor Kane, Adam Wixted, Sean Brennan (C) (Luke Heeney 57), Mark Hughes (Cian Kavanagh 68), Mark Doyle, Thomas Byrne (James Clarke 78), Chris Lyons.
Unused substitutions: Luca Gratzer, Stephen Meaney, Sean Trimble, Janabi Amour.
Yellow card: Mark Hughes (24), Thomas Byrne (74)
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt, Stephen Christopher, Stephen O’Connor, Charlie Lyons, James McSweeney, Ian Turner, Dave Hurley (Greg Henry 61), Shane O’Connor (C), Denzil Fernandes (Jaze Kabia 61), Stephen Kenny, Cian Leonard.
Unused substitutions: Ben O’Riordan, Adam Mylod, Stephen O’Leary, Matt Lamb.
Yellow card: Cian Leonard (30), Shane O’Connor (62), Stephen Kenny (76).
Red card: Cian Leonard (37).
Attendance: 620 (approx.)
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Mark Doyle (Drogheda United).
51/2 hrs on a bus that broke down 3 times on the way to game. 10mins to warm players up after trek. Drogs battered us. Very good side . But the treatment of my players was disgusting irrespective if we won the game or not. Broke down again now In Dublin. Poxy fooking day.— Stephen Henderson (@stevehendo07) February 23, 2019