Drogheda United and UCD served up a five goal thriller as the Boynesiders held on for all three points at Hunky Dorys Park on Friday night.
The Students can count themselves somewhat unfortunate not to take anything from the game as they produced a great fight back and at 3-2 they saw the ball cleared off the line.
Drogheda looked to be in for a comfortable evening as they went 2-0 up within the opening 35 minutes, but a Robbie Benson goal on 38 minutes dragged College back into the game. Gary O’Neill scored just after the restart but again back came UCD and second-half sub Dean Clarke made a nervy final 20 minutes for Drogheda with his goal on 67 minutes.
Drogheda made two changes to the side which defeated Sligo Rovers on Tuesday night, Alan McNally made his first start of the season, while Martin Russell was forced into two changes from his team which lost 1-0 to St Pats on Friday night.
A very tame opening saw Drogheda win back-to-back corners but fail to take advantage of the dipping sun which had everyone blinded. David Cassidy had an early shot easily saved after three minutes while former Student, Graham Rusk, from close range could only head right at McGinley.
UCD had their chances, Robbie Benson danced through midfield and played in David McMillan but he was closed down before Sean Russell broke on right wing and crossed but Alan McNally’s clearance only went as far as Robbie Benson but he shanked his shot well wide.
But with 21 minutes on the clock Drogheda opened the scoring. Shane Grimes picked out Gavin Brennan from a throw on the left and the midfielder centered the ball for Gary O’Neill to score from close range.
UCD almost drew level on 26 minutes, David McMillan raced through into the Drogheda box but rather than shoot he tried to square the ball to Sean Russell and played it behind allowing Drogheda clear.
This miss was punished as Drogheda doubled their lead, David Cassidy whipped in a corner which was headed out to the corner of the box and Gavin Brennan with plenty of space let the ball drop and just before it hit the ground he hit it low towards goal and McGinley seemed unsighted as it hit the far post and bobbled in.
College pulled one back when another Russell break on the right finally paid off as he beat Gannon and whipped in an inviting pass for Robbie Benson to tap home from close range. They then almost drew level as Russell, buoyed by his assist, tried his luck from long range and Sava seemed caught in two minds but he palmed the ball and it spun up behind him, however he was standing far enough off the line that he could allow the ball bounce before catching it.
Drogheda finished the first half the stronger and started as they left off and on 49 minutes they stretched their lead. A UCD attack broke down and Drogheda pulled off the perfect counter as Ryan Brennan broke to midfield before playing a ball over the top and Gary O’Neill beat the offside trap and slid the ball under the advancing McGinley.
Martin Russell made a double substitution and it paid off as on 67 minutes Dean Clarke made it 3-2. David McMillian managed to muscle Derek Prendergast off the ball and got round the defender to play a ball across goal for Clarke to score from close range.
The Students then threw everything at Drogheda as Russell had switched to a more attacking 3-5-2 and only for Shane Grimes they would have leveled on 76 minutes, Sava came to claim a ball and got caught in between two UCD players and David McMillian hit a shot towards goal which was stopped on the line by Grimes and then hacked clear.
Drogheda had chances to kill off the game late on, Graham Rusk went close before a solo effort by Ryan Brennan set up his brother Gavin, but he fired wide from the edge of the box.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Graham Rusk (Mick Daly 82), Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy, Paul O’Conor, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neill.
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann, Stephen Quigley, Philip Hand, Peter Hynes, Declan O’Brien, Eric Foley.
Bookings: Gannon (46).
UCD: Mark McGinley; Gareth Matthews (Dean Clarke 59), Thomas Boyle, David O’Connor, Mark Langtry; Sean Russell, Robbie Creevy (Barry McCabe 78), Craig Walsh, Robbie Benson, Gary Burke (Hugh Douglas 59); David McMillan.
Subs not used: Ger Barron, Dinny Corcoran, Cillian Morrison, Samir Belhout.
Bookings: Douglas (65), McCabe (89).
Referee: Alan Kelly
Extratime Man of the Match: Gary O'Neill (Drogheda United).