St Patrick’s Athletic failed to break down a resolute Drogheda United at Richmond Park on Friday night as the sides played out a scoreless draw in their FAI Cup quarter-final.
The sides will meet again At Hunky Dorys Park on Monday night after a game in which St Pats had the lion’s share of possession and created far more chances than their opponents. But Liam Buckley’s men have had trouble turning dominance into wins throughout the season and he will surely view this result as another missed opportunity.
Despite Pats bossing the opening period of the game it was Drogheda who came closest to opening the scoring on 13 minutes. Peter Hynes headed a high ball back into the path of captain Paul Crowley, and his looping header sailed over the frantically back-pedaling Barry Murphy and inches over the bar.
Drogheda’s ability to hit on the counter, after soaking up waves of pressure, was what won Mick Cooke’s side the points when these teams last met in the league, and both sides looked like playing similar roles this time around. Pats passed the ball smoothly and dominated play, but were toothless in front of goal. Drogheda sat back and attempted to play on the break, working off Hynes’ ability to hold up play and link with his midfield.
Pats first real chance came in the 27th minute at the end of a wonderful move initiated by Chris Forrester. A sweeping move resulted in a corner which found it’s way to Vinny Faherty. But the Pats striker couldn’t get a shot away and Gabriel Sava smothered bravely at his feet.
Faherty wasted a golden opportunity on the half hour mark, shooting tamely wide when well placed, but there was nothing tame about Forrester’s effort on 40 minutes. Faherty found him in space at the back post with a nudged header and Forrester unleashed a fierce volley that was only cleared off the line by Brian Gannon’s face.
Pats began the second half strangely out of sorts and it was Drogheda who led the way, though Ryan Brennan’s miscued shot on 49 minutes was all they had to show for twenty minutes of being in charge.
It was not until the 67th minute that Pats rediscovered their passion, when a chipped ball through the Drogheda rearguard released Forrester and the young winger finished coolly past Sava. But the home fans delight soon turned to shock as the goal was disallowed and referee Paul Tuite booked Forrester for deliberate handball.
Shortly afterwards Forrester played James Chambers through the middle but a saving block from Conor Kenna denied him. The subsequent corner produced a medley of chances as Kenna saw his close range shot deflected across the danger area before Faherty was denied a close range header by the acrobatic form of Sava.
Moments later Forrester’s powerful drive was blocked and Kenna saw another low effort excellently saved low down at his near post by Sava.
As the minutes ticked away substitute Stephen O’Flynn headed a cross from the left down into the turf and watched in horror as it bounced up and over the Drogheda crossbar. O’Flynn then released fellow sub, Greg Bolger, with only four minutes remaining. As Bolger strode through on goal he did everything right, but Sava somehow got down to his low shot and produced an astounding save.
In added time Chambers missed header at the back post when he looked certain to score but, had he done so, the linesman’s flag was in the air to ensure that this game would not be decided on the night.
A combination of belligerence and inspired defending saved Drogheda on the night, but with St Pats continuing to struggle in front of goal it is tempting to wonder if Mick Cooke’s men aren’t now ideally placed for Monday’s replay.
St Patrick’s Ath: Barry Murphy; Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham; Sean O’Connor, Jake Carroll, James Chambers, John Russell (Greg Bolger 68), Chris Forrester (Jake Kelly 88); Vinny Faherty (Stephen O’Flynn 79).
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke, Aidan Price, Pat Flynn, Darren Meenan.
Booked: Russell (18), Forrester (67), Bolger (90).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Philip Hand; Declan O’Brien (Cathal Brady 69), Paul Crowley (John Sullivan 46), Ryan Brennan, Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan; Peter Hynes.
Subs not used: Shane Finnegan, Stephen Quigley, Conor O’Keeffe, Sean Brennan, Tiarnan Mulvenna.
Booked: McNally (5), Foley (35).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime Man of the Match: Gabriel Sava (Drogheda United).