Date: 7:45 p.m. April 24, 2009
Venue: United Park
Sligo were reduced to nine men in a card strewn game before seeing their somewhat exuberant manager Paul Cook sent to the stands for some disparaging remarks made to the referee, but in all fairness he probably spoke the mind of 90% of the spectators watching this appalling example of officiating.
Richie Winters made sure he earned his wage as he handed out no less than 8 cards, six yellow and two red while awarding numerous free kicks for minor infringements that impacted heavily on the flow of the game.
Sligo captain Danny Ventre was first to see red after a cynical foul on Drogheda’s Jamie Duffy in the first half and he was followed later on by Owen Morrison for a second yellow on 82 minutes.
Drogheda were denied a stonewall penalty decision as William Woods, making his full league debut, was blatantly held in the box by Gavin Peers however against his form Winters allowed play to continue and denied the hosts an opportunity to take the lead.
The game started off in a lively fashion and it was the visitors, looking to extend their current unbeaten run, who made the early chances. Alan Keane forced Matthews into a save just on nine minutes before Raf Cretaro showed why he is so pivotal to Sligo as he left Ian Ryan along with the rest of the Drogheda back four for dead as he screamed into the Drogheda box but dragged his shot just wide.
The home side’s first effort came on 18 minutes as Woods and Shiels combined before offloading to Gavin Whelan who smacked a shot on the half volley that looked on target but was deflected wide by Ventre.
In what was an enthralling end to end first half Sligo had another gilt edge chance moments later as Romuald Boco took the ball down the left and his cross was let go by Cretaro and the ball found its way to Eoin Torpey who hit his shot straight at Williams.
Drogheda’s James Chambers was a commanding presence in the centre of midfield as he sprayed the ball down both wings and placed several free kicks into dangerous areas as Drogheda constantly pushed forward.
The compact surroundings that is United Park somewhat stunted Sligo’s natural style of play as they were forced more down the centre rather than their usual wing routes downfield.
Gavin Whelan had another shot blocked by Peers who stuck his head in front of the rocketing ball to block its path to the top corner for which it looked destined.
Drogheda at times seemed to take Sligo apart quite easily but once they got into the danger areas no one knew what to do and they ended up over playing the possession and subsequently losing it.
The second half was more a Sligo dominated affair as within the space of two minutes Cretaro single-handedly should have put his side one up as he broke through and if it wasn’t for a last minute Robert Clarke tackle the striker would have buried passed Williams. Right on the hour mark Jamie Duffy spurned a glorious chance as some intricate interplay by the Drogheda attack found the makeshift striker right in front of the goal but he mis-kicked his shot and let Sligo off the hook.
Drogheda had a second penalty shout on 78 minutes as Duffy was brought down right on the edge of the box at the by-line and his free in roused shouts of handball as the Sligo defence was caught at sixes and sevens, but Winters waved away any calls.
As Sligo were reduced to nine you got the sense that Drogheda might finally break the deadlock, but it was the impotency in the final third that would be their undoing. With Mark Salmon, Brian King and Michael Foley all on for Drogheda they looked to be going for the win but they couldn’t find that little extra to break down what had become a very resilient Sligo defence.
So for the second week running Sligo failed to score but more importantly failed to concede, however manager Paul Cook has more to worry about than an FAI reprimand as he will be potentially without seven players for their trip to Cork next week.
Drogheda United: Williams, Ryan, McNally, Kenna, R Clarke, Whelan, Chambers, Shiels, O'Connor, Duffy, Woods. Subs: Foley for Woods (60min), Salmon for Ryan (75min), King for O'Connor (78min).
Sligo Rovers: Brush, Keane, Peers, Ventre, Holmes, Morrison, Torpey, Ryan, Doherty, Boco, Cretaro. Subs: Cash for Doherty (42min), Feeney for Torpey (46min).
Referee: Richie Winter (Dublin).