Drogheda United battled back to secure the shock victory of the night as they triumphed 3-2 at home to Sligo Rovers on Friday night. It was a Friday the 13th to forget for Owen Heary’s side as twice they took the lead and couldn’t kill off the game.
This quintessential five goal thriller had everything - penalty shouts, goal line clearances and, of course, the necessary number of goals and thanks to some very grounded refereeing from Robert Harvey, there were no red cards, if a few yellows.
Drogheda started the brighter, but Sligo’s ability to counter attack made them the more dangerous outfit and, on seven minutes, a swift break started by Raffaele Cretaro saw Sligo take the lead. Some quick passing finished with John Russell bending a ball to the back post, where former Drog Dinny Corcoran was on hand to head the ball past Michael Schlingermann for his first goal for the Bit O’Red.
Nine minutes later and the Boynesiders responded with a goal very much against the run of play. Drogheda captain Mick Daly advanced down the right before playing a ball which reached Jason Marks on the far side of the box. He managed to control and chip the ball to Daryl Kavanagh, who headed home from the centre of the goal.
From there, however, Sligo started to take control of the game. James Beattie saw a long rang shot fly just over the bar and Cretaro single-handedly looked like he was going to pull his side back into the lead.
Sligo had the ball in the net on 23 minutes when Neil Yadolahi sliced a clearance and this presented the ball to Cretaro, whose initial shot was saved but Corcoran followed in and collided with Schlingermann, resulting in the ball spilling free and Cretaro’s finish was ruled out due to the foul on the shot-stopper.
Sligo had a penalty appeal waved away on the half-hour mark as the ball bounced up and off Joe Gorman’s hand, but Harvey was having none of it and signalled play on, much to the horror of Cretaro.
The visitors re-took the lead before the break when Russell once again provided the assist, this time from a corner, and Gavin Peers headed home at the near post to mark his 300th appearance in style.
Both sides had chances after the re-start. Daly had a shot deflected toward goal but not enough to trouble Ryan Coulter, while at the other end Kevin Devaney had an effort cleared off the line by Joe Gorman.
Minutes after that and Drogheda once again achieved parity, when a long ball reached Kavanagh who held it up brilliantly before lobbing it into the path of Cathal Brady who had made the break forward and the winger was one-on-one with Coulter and he slotted his shot low and into the net.
Jason Marks then came close with a shot from inside the box but it drifted wide of the far post as Drogheda seemed confident going forward, aided by the intelligent midfield play of Sean Thornton.
With just over 20 minutes remaining Drogheda hit the front when Stephen Maher was fouled, and from the resultant free Thornton lobbed the ball into the box where Yadolahi dipped his head and guided the shot away from Coulter and into the far corner for his first goal for the Boynesiders and what would ultimately turn out to be the winner.
Sligo had their chances in the final 20 minutes, as Gorman again cleared off the line as Beattie made a great break from inside his own half and drew the defence across, allowing for an overlap on the left but Devaney’s shot slipped under the body of Schlingermann and the defender had covered to scoop it off the line.
It’s six from six now for Drogheda who sit second in the league, while Owen Heary waits for his first league win as Sligo boss.
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingermann; Mick Daly, Alan Byrne, Neil Yadolahi, Joe Gorman; Stephen Maher, Sean Brennan (Lee Duffy, 78), Sean Thornton, Cathal Brady (Michael Scott, 86); Jason Marks; Daryl Kavanagh.
Subs not used: Dylan Connolly (gk), Lloyd Buckley, Shane Dunne, Carl Walshe, Tiernan Mulvenna.
Bookings: Daly (23), Duffy (89).
Sligo Rovers: Ryan Coulter; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Stephen Folan, Danny Ledwith; Kevin Devaney, David Cawley, Johnny Russell (Sander Puri, 86), Steven Beattie, Raffaele Cretaro (Morten Nielsen, 77); Dinny Corcoran.
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly (gk), Eoin Wearen, Keith Ward, Jake Dykes, Ryan McManus.
Bookings: Corcoran (23), Devaney (76).
Referee: Robert Harvey
Attendance: 700 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of The Match: Michael Schlingermann (Drogheda United ) - The keeper was solid as a rock against his former club. Very little could be done about the two goals but he made some fine saves when required and brave ones too.