Drogheda United produced an assured performance to advance past Athlone Town and book their place in the second round of the EA Sports Cup.
Manager Mick Cooke had implored his team not to underestimate the opposition or suffer a repeat of the fate that befell them at the hands of Firhouse Clover in the Leinster Senior Cup when they were knocked out on penalties.
His team heeded the warning and set about the home side almost immediately from the starting whistle with Sean Brennan drawing a save from Pat Jennings with a free-kick in the opening two minutes.
The Athlone defence was struggling to cope and when Brennan played the ball out wide to Mark O’Brien his pinpoint delivery allowed Brennan to head past Jennings to finish a free flowing move for the visitors.
The Premier Division side were showing their class and Athlone’s attempts to ease the pressure by booting the ball long was affording them little respite as United came straight back at them.
The home side did muster an attack on 17 minutes and could have been awarded a penalty when Brian Gannon and Val Feeney collided in the box but the referee upset the home fans by giving a foul against Feeney and a free out.
One minute later Drogheda added to their score when Fabio O’Brien broke down the left and his cross was dispatched to the net by Mark O’Brien.
The one way traffic continued and when Paul Crowley headed home from Gavin Brennan’s cross it looked like things could get really ugly for the home side.
This was confirmed on the half hour when Tommy Barrett conceded a free kick on the edge of the box and up stepped Sean Brennan to expertly bend the ball around the wall and into the bottom corner.
Athlone did start to come into the game a little more but United were allowing them no time on the ball, closing down with an enthusiasm that would surely have delighted their manager.
Indeed it came as somewhat of a surprise when Brian Gill grabbed a goal back for the home side just before the break.
Mike Kerley introduced Warren Conroy and Mark Sherlock at half-time and the two substitutes added impetus to Athlone’s attack. Conroy flashed a dangerous corner across the goal that begged to be converted and a good break saw Sherlock work Gabriel Sava in the Drogheda goal.
Although the game had lost a bit of intensity the visitors were never really in trouble and one got the feeling that they could move up through the gears as they did on the 77th minute when Fabio O’Brien was upended in the box and converted the resultant penalty. The striker then pulled up with an injury meaning the Drogs saw out the rest of the game with 10 men.
Athlone showed some spirit to finish strongly and the impressive Sherlock was rewarded for a hard-working second half display when he collected a ball over the top and controlled brilliantly before slotting past Sava.
This put some gloss on a score line that was never really in doubt.
Athlone Town: Pat Jennings; Ian Dempsey, David Brookes, Tommy Barrett, Paul Danaher; Garvan Broughall, Brian Gill, (Warren Conroy, 46) Sean Guerins, Niall Scullion (Kevin Williamson, 71); Robbie Kelleher (Mark Sherlock, 46), Val Feeney.
Subs not used: Jordan Marchment, Brian McCarthy, Darren Coleman, Joe Woods.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley (Conor O‘Keefe, 69), Philip Hand, Derek Pendergast, Brian Gannon; Mark O’Brien, Gavin Brennan (Dean Marshall, 46) Paul Crowley, Eric Foley; Declan O’Brien, Sean Brennan (Tiarnan Mulvenna, 63).
Subs not used: Shane Flanagan, Chris Kerr, Keith Boyle ,Stephen Watters.
Referee: Derek Tomney
Attendance: 150 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Sean Brennan, two goals and ran the game for the hour he was on the pitch