Drogheda United will thank their goalkeeper Gabriel Sava for keeping their lead at Oriel Park after they came away with a 2-1 victory in the Louth derby. Drogheda United took the lead through Sean Brennan just before the break before Dundalk equalised through Gary Shanahan. Paul Crowley scored the winner for the visitors as they survived a second half onslaught from the Lilywhites.
Drogheda United began the better of the two sides and after eight minutes they almost took the lead. Declan O’Brien flicked on a bouncing ball into the path of Sean Brennan who shot into the side netting of Peter Cherrie’s goal. Moments later it was the woodwork who denied the Drogs. Peter Hynes shot from distance crashed off the crossbar.
Dundalk then had their first opening of the game. Following a foul on Stephen McDonnell, Mark Griffin almost curled the free-kick into the top corner of Gabriel Sava’s goal. Cherrie then saved well at his near post from Brennan’s shot just inside the box.
O’Brien should have opened the scoring for the visitors just after the half hour mark. After a great ball into the box, Fabio found himself in space but could only direct his header over the bar.
Dundalk began to get more into the game and had two chances in quick succession. Nathan Murphy took a corner from the right and found Griffin on the edge of the box. His shot was well blocked and went out for another corner.
From that, Murphy once again crossed but this time into the box but it was headed over by Stephen McDonnell. Griffin had another shot from distance but it was saved by Sava. Drogheda grabbed the lead just before half-time.
After Hynes won a free-kick following a foul by Derek Foran, it was taken quickly by Ryan Brennan. He played it to O’Brien who crossed for Sean Brennan to fire home from inside the box. Within seconds it was almost two. Goal scorer Sean Brennan done well down the left and his cross was played to Hynes who directed it goal wards but it was saved by Cherrie.
The visitors went in at the break with the upper hand.
It was Dundalk who started the second half better. McDonnell ran at the defence and when his attempted cross came back to him, he shot right at Sava. Dundalk did press but couldn’t really create anything. McDonnell had another shot from distance before the Lilywhites finally grabbed the equaliser they deserved.
Some great play in midfield set Paul Walsh down the right. His cross found substitute Gary Shanahan who slotted home past Sava with 27 minutes remaining. This gave the crowd a lift but it wasn’t long before they came back down to earth.
Three minutes later Ryan Brennan played a dangerous ball into the box and it was met by former Lilywhite Paul Crowley who headed past Cherrie and into the net reclaiming the lead for the Drogs. They almost made it three when O’Brien found space on the edge of the box but his shot was straight at Cherrie who gathered at the second attempt.
Dundalk almost got back into the game when Sava came too far out of his goal and Shanahan played across the face of goal but no one was there to finish. Drogheda ‘keeper Sava came to their rescue when he saved brilliantly from Griffin’s wonderful 30 yard free-kick.
Sava then denied Chris Shields from distance before Griffin shot over from just outside the box. The Drogheda United ‘keeper then pulled off a world class save to somehow push Griffin’s 30 yard drive round the post.
Going into injury-time, Drogheda United were reduced to ten men. Eric Foley, who had earlier been booked, went in late on Nathan Murphy and was shown a second yellow leaving the visitors with a numerical disadvantage to protect their lead.
Murphy tried to make the advantage count when he took a free-kick from distance but it was straight at Sava. Dundalk piled on the pressure in injury-time but failed to create any clear-cut chances as Drogheda United took the points back down the M1.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Ben McLauglin (Gerard McSorley 76), Liam Burns, Derek Foran, Nathan Murphy; Paul Walsh, Chris Shields ©, John Mountney, Stephen McDonnell (Peter Thomas 83); Shane O’Neill (Gary Shanahan 57), Mark Griffin.
Subs not used: Ger Hanley (GK), Peter Thomas, Dan Cunningham, Conor McDonald, Robert Watters.
Bookings: Shields (11), McDonnell (20), Griffin (29), S O’Neill (31), Foran (81)
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Philip Hand; Ryan Brennan (Dean Marshall 88), Paul Crowley ©, Eric Foley, Sean Brennan; Peter Hynes (Johnny Breen 90+3), Fabio O’Brien (Mark O’Brien 90+2).
Subs not used: Stephen Trimble (GK), Mark O’Brien, Tiernan Mulvenna, Johnny Breen, Connor O’Keefe, Chris Kerr.
Bookings: S Quigley (14), Foley (70).
Sent off: Foley (89).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Attendance: 700 (estimate)
Extratime man of the match: Gabriel Sava (Drogheda United).