A late goal from Alan McNally salvaged a point for Drogheda United at Belfield as they maintained their unbeaten run against an impressive UCD on Friday night.
The first threat on goal came in the third minute when Hugh Douglas rose to head a free kick wide of the Drogheda goal. As chances go it was less than clear cut but Chris Lyons was given a much better opportunity four minutes later when Paul O’Conor split the defence to put him through on goal. Perhaps in haste, Lyons lobbed his effort comfortably over Gabriel Sava’s goal from 15 yards.
The next opening was created by Drogheda when Tiarnan Mulvenna’s ball over the top found the run of Declan O’Brien but he too succumbed to impatience and, attempting to lob Mark McGinley from the edge of the box, he lifted the ball too high.
Both sides impressed as the game progressed, each playing a very watchable brand of passing football though Drogheda soon began to look the more dangerous. Mulvenna picked up a deflected through ball on 21 minutes and laid a square ball to O’Brien that could well have created the opening goal but for the slightest deflection that turned the ball behind the striker’s run. And moments later O’Brien flashed an angled shot just beyond McGinley’s far post.
With Mulvenna and O’Brien continuing to snap at the heels of the UCD defence, the Students began to show some signs of unease, David O’Connor mis-hitting a clearance that almost presented Mulvenna with a golden opportunity on 25 minutes.
Twelve minutes before the break Ryan Brennan spurned the best chance of the half, heading over from eight yards having met a perfect cross from the left by brother Gavin. As half time approached O’Brien felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty when he went over the leg of Daniel Ledwith inside the UCD box but, in truth, the defender’s challenge looked inch perfect and the visitors had to accept level terms at the whistle.
Three minutes after the restart it was UCD who nearly broke the deadlock when Robbie Benson weaved his way through the box before Shane Grimes’ committed tackle saw the ball spin out to full back Danny Ledwith. But his first time effort only found the side-netting.
The Students underlined their positive approach to the second period on 53 minutes when a free kick into the Drogheda box was only half cleared to Chris Lyons. The young striker allowed the ball to drop before forcing Gabriel Sava in to an acrobatic save from ten yards out.
Ten minutes into the half and Drogheda were struggling to regain the upper hand but on 58 minutes the visitors won a corner from which O’Brien had his header cleared off the line. Moments later, he worked his way through the middle with the aid of Ryan Brennan before snatching his shot wide.
Suddenly Drogheda were back in charge, albeit less elegantly than they had been in the first half, Brian Gannon lobbing wastefully high when through on goal, and Ryan Brennan testing McGinley with a fierce effort from 20 yards.
The visitors continued to press, right up until the 69th minute when UCD took the lead. On a rare break Graham Rusk was tackled on the edge of the box, Daniel Ledwith hooking the loose ball wide of Sava and inside the Drogheda keeper’s far post.
Drogheda barely missed a beat, recovering from the set back to immediately resume their assault on the Student’s goal. Gavin Brennan played Mulvenna into space on the left and his shot on the turn whistled past McGinley before clipping the base of the far post and bouncing to safety.
Sean Brennan was introduced by Drogheda boss Mick Cooke in an attempt to pep up the visitors attack and moments later Drogheda had hit the woodwork again, Derek Prendergast stretching to scoop an Eric Foley corner off the bar from close range.
Finally Drogheda made the breakthrough they deserved. With eight minutes remaining Foley delivered a corner deep to the back post where Sean Brennan headed back across goal for Alan McNally to tuck a header past McGinley.
Having worked so hard to get back on terms it would have been something of a disaster to go behind again, something Drogheda almost did just two minutes later. UCD burst forward, Graham Rusk scooping over from two yards, having got on the end of Cillian Morrison’s low cross.
In the dying moments Paul Corry drove inches wide from distance for UCD and Alan McNally had a header cleared off the line by UCD defender Paul O’Conor. In the end a draw was the right result though both sides might feel they did enough to win it.
UCD: Mark McGinley; Hugh Douglas, Mick Leahy, David O’Connor, Daniel Ledwith; Gary Burke (Mark Langtry 46), Paul O’Conor, Paul Corry, Robbie Benson (Cillian Morrison 63); Graham Rusk, Chris Lyons (Samir Belhout 71).
Suns Not Used: Niall Corbet (gk), James Kavanagh, Barry McCabe, Dean Clarke.
Bookings: Leahy (33), Ledwith (62), Belhout (81).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley (Cathal Brady 75), Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Brian Gannon, Ryan Brennan (Sean Brennan 71), Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien (Peter Hynes 65), Tiarnan Mulvenna.
Subs Not Used: Stephen Trimble (gk), Philip Hand, Mark O’Brien, Dean Marshall.
Bookings: Sean Brennan (86).
Referee: Nick Pratt (FAW).
Extratime Man of the Match: Tiarnan Mulvenna.