Ger Grimes reporting from United Park
A last-minute Ciaran Kelly equaliser rescued a point for Drogheda United as they drew 1-1 with Longford Town at United Park on Friday, after the visitors had taken the lead through Dean Byrne’s stunning strike.
Longford had the first chance of the game as Sean Brennan’s misplaced pass found Evan Galvin for the visitors.
Galvin quickly played the ball to Aodh Dervin but his effort from 25 yards was always rising and didn’t trouble Skinner.
Drogheda had their first effort two minutes later as Brennan’s free kick was met by the head of Gallagher, but like Dervin’s chance for Longford, it was always rising and didn’t trouble Michael Kelly.
Two former Drogheda players, from last season, combined for Longford’s next chance as Shane Elworthy’s cross from the left wasn’t dealt with by Drogheda and fell to Chris Mulhall.
Mulhall waited for the ball to bounce and hit a volley goalwards but it took a deflection off a Drogheda man and went out for a corner.
Brennan started Drogheda’s attack, flicking it over the head of a Longford player before playing a through ball to Mark Doyle.
Doyle twisted and turned but his eventual shot was deflection, almost fell into Duffy’s path but was cleared by Longford.
Longford piled the pressure on towards the end of the half with Aodh Dervin running the game from midfield.
Dervin found Galvin on the left in space, with time to cut the ball back onto his right foot and lay it off to Tristan Noack-Hofmann but the defender could only drag his shot right and wide.
The home side did have a goal disallowed just before halftime as Richie Purdy drove forward on the left and hit the ball towards goal, where Jake Hyland tapped home.
However, with Hyland adjudged to have been offside when Purdy had played the ball, the goal was ruled out and teams went in level at the break.
Longford almost took the lead from the off in the second half as they won the ball back and Dean Byrne broke forward before his low drive across goal skipped narrowly wide of Skinner’s far post.
The home side had claims for a penalty waved away five minutes later as Mark Doyle beat Elworthy and just as Doyle looked to shoot, he went to ground under a challenge from the backtracking Elworthy.
The referee thought otherwise, awarding Drogheda a corner while Elworthy limped off injured and was replaced by Karl Chambers.
Chambers had an instant impact off the bench as again Sean Brennan gave the ball away, allowing Longford to counter.
The substitute played a pass inside to Dean Byrne who opened his body and curled the ball past Skinner from all of 25 yards.
That goal seemed to give Drogheda a wake-up call of sorts as they had three chances in the next five minutes.
First, Purdy won the ball back, drove at the defence, played a ball to McCaffrey but his final ball towards Duffy was cut out by Longford.
Then, two minutes later, Doyle won the ball off Chambers, broke clear of him, cut the ball back to McCaffrey but his goalbound effort was brilliant blocked by Adam O’Connor.
Gallagher was next to get Drogheda started as he came forward with the ball from the right and fired an effort across goal.
The ball fell to Doyle at the backpost but, attempting to keep it in and shoot, he could only roll his effort across the line and into Michael Kelly’s hands.
Drogheda again pushed late on for an equaliser and with five minutes to go, Kane beat his man before lifted the ball into a crowded box for Lyons to head goalwards, and Michael Kelly to gather.
A minute later, Brennan’s delivery into the box was met by the onrunning Ciaran Kelly.
His effort looked to be heading for the back of the net but keeper Michael Kelly managed to pull off a brilliant save, palming it over the bar.
Drogheda though, would find the equaliser, and it came through Ciaran Kelly, with virtually the last kick of the game.
As the clock approached the end of five additional minutes, Kevin Farragher launched a long ball into the box.
Adam O’Connor jumped but missed the ball, Daniel O’Reilly could only half clear it towards the edge of the box where Ciaran Kelly was to side footed the ball into the far corner from fifteen yards.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Luke Gallagher (Colm Deasy 68’), Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly, Conor Kane; Richie Purdy (Stephen Meaney 79’), Sean Brennan, Jake Hyland (C); Lee Duffy, Gareth McCaffrey (Chris Lyons 67’), Mark Doyle.
Unused Subs: Luka Gratzer (GK), Lloyd Buckley, Kealan Dillon, Eoin McPhillips.
Longford Town: Michael Kelly; Shane Elworthy (Karl Chambers 55’), Daniel O’Reilly, Adam O’Connor, Tristan Noack-Hofmann; Peter Hopkins (Dylan McGlade 67’), Dean Zambra (C), Aodh Dervin, Evan Galvin; Dean Byrne (Sam Verdon 83’), Chris Mulhall.
Unused Subs: Jack Brady (GK), Daniel Ridge, Cian Byrne, Jamie Hollywood.
Booked: Peter Hopkins (65’), Chris Mulhall (72’), Sam Verdon (88’).
Referee: Andrew Mullally.
Attendance: 400 (est).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Aodh Dervin (Longford Town).