Drogheda ruthlessly disposed of Derry City by three goals to nil in the Brandywell on Friday night to move into third place in the Airtricity Premier division.
Derry made most of the running in the opening minutes with Rory Patterson called back by the referee when he looked to be through on goal.
Gradually Drogheda came into the game and the Derry rearguard seemed jittery as Gavin and Sean Brennan began to stretch play on either wing.
The Candystripes were undone on the ninth minute by a harmless ball down the middle which had their defence scrambling. Gavin Brennan was too quick for Michael Barr as the ball bounced just outside the six-yard area and he nipped in to prod the ball home.
The Drogheda midfield were now growing in confidence as they began to find their colleagues with increasing regularity.
It wasn’t until the half hour mark that Derry had their first serious attempt on goal when David McDaid was played in by a neat ball by Rory Patterson. The shot was straight at the goalkeeper though.
It did signal a period of pressure for the home-side in which they received a flurry of free-kicks, all in a similar position – around 20 yards from and central to the Drogheda goal.
Each one was wasted as first Ruaidhri Higgins, then Stephen McLaughlin (twice) and finally Patrick McEleney failed to find the required accuracy to gain their side an equaliser.
Drogheda flew out of the blocks on the resumption of the game after half-time and it wasn’t long before they doubled their advantage.
Some neat interplay between the United forwards saw Ryan Brennan pick out his brother Gavin in the area and the club’s former player of the year made no mistake as he slotted high into the City net.
Drogheda were now rampant and it didn’t take them long to add to their score and again it was a goal that was more a Derry defensive error than Drogheda invention.
Having said that, Declan O’Brien was coolness personified as he intercepted Simon Madden’s woeful throw-in, before lobbing the onrushing Gerard Doherty in the home net.
Derry finally began to enjoy some possession after that but by this time the match was all but dead as a contest.
Declan Devine will take some positives at the way his young side battled on and dominated the final third of the game despite the loss of the two McEleneys but will rue the defensive frailties that rendered a difficult task impossible.
As for Mick Cooke, he can only be delighted at the way his team exposed the Derry defence without having to get out of third gear.
Whisper it, but Drogheda will have to be considered viable title challengers on the back of this win.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Eddie McCallion, Shane McEleney (Ryan Curran 62), Dermot McCaffrey; Michael Barr (Barry McNamee 85), Ruaidhri Higgins, Patrick McEleney (Owen Morrison 53), Stephen McLaughlin; David McDaid, Rory Patterson.
Subs Not Used: Eugene Ferry, Tony McNamee, Matthew Henry.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Conor McMahon; Ryan Brennan, Eric Foley, Paul Crowley (Cathal Brady 75), Gavin Brennan; Peter Hynes (Tiarnan Mulvenna 68), Declan O’Brien (John Breen 85).
Subs Not Used: Stephen Trimble, Mark O’Brien, Dean Marshall, Conor O’Keefe.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).
Attendance: 1,100 (Estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gavin Brennan (Drogheda United).