Derry City and Drogheda United will head into the second leg of Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final next week all square after a hard fought draw at the Brandywell on Monday night. In a match devoid of any great quality, it was the home side who came out of the traps quicker with the Louth side having the better of the second period.
Derry's first competitive game of the season was played without the services of Barry Molloy and Dermott McCaffrey who were missing through suspension and new signings Sean Houston and Patrick Kavanagh who missed out due to injury.
The Candystripes started the game brightly. Four minutes into the game, the industrious Michael Rafter beat Derek Prendergast for pace and a late challenge from the Drogheda captain earned him a yellow card.
Rafter was involved again soon after winning a free kick 30 yards from goal. Rory Patterson stepped up and his low drilled shot found the corner of Drogheda's net to open his and Derry's account. Netminder Gabriel Sava will no doubt think he should have done better.
Rafter missed an opportunity to double the advantage in the 15th minute heading over from a Stewart Greacen flick. Derry were dominating at this point and a tricky run and shot from Barry McNamee brought a good save out of Sava.
Drogheda gradually got into the game and in the 29th minute a Shane Grime's free kick was flapped at by Ger Doherty giving Alan Byrne an opportunity to head in a rebound but the Derry netminder recovered in time to tip it over.
In the 43rd minute, Rory Patterson went over in the box claiming a penalty but referee Hetherington rightly said no with the Northern Ireland international receiving a booking for dissent.
Whatever Mick Cooke said at half time seemed to have the desired effect as Drogheda came out for the second half much livelier. Poor defending in the 53rd minute gifted Drogheda their equaliser. Greacen and Ryan McBride seemed to get caught in two minds as to who should clear the ball and veteran striker Declan 'Fabio' O'Brien nipped in to rifle it past Doherty.
From then on the game descended into a midfield battle with neither side rustling up many opportunities. Michael Rafter's shot on target and an attempt from Paul O'Conor from 10 yards the best of the chances for each team.
Both teams played the last 15 minutes within themselves and even the introduction of substitutes failed to spark any meaningful opportunities for either side. A draw was a fair reflection on the game and it's all to play for next Monday night in the return leg.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride (Ryan Curran 90), Stewart Greacen, Simon Madden; Patrick McEleney, Ruadhri Higgins (Thomas Crawley 77), Kevin Deery (c),Barry McNamee; Michael Rafter (Mark Griffin 75), Rory Patterson.
Subs not used: James Gallagher, Tony McNamee, Sean Curran
Booked: Rory Patterson
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava, Alan Byrne, Michael Daly, Shane Grimes, Derek Prendergast (c); Ryan Brennan, Gavin Brennan, Eric Foley, Paul O'Conor, Gary O'Neill (Peter Hynes 83); Declan O'Brien
Subs not used: Michael Schlingerman, Brian Gannon, David Cassidy, Cathal Brady, Philip Hand, Graham Rusk
Booked: Derek Prendergast, Gabriel Sava.
Referee: Raymond Hetherington.
Attendance: 1,000 (estimate)
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Michael Rafter (Derry City).