Dundalk bounce back with derby day win
Dundalk FC 3–1 Drogheda United
After losing to Cork City last week, Stephen Kenny would have demanded an instant reply from his Dundalk side and he got it as the champions recorded a 3–1 win over Drogheda United in an eventful Louth derby at Oriel Park.
The last competitive game between these sides came back in September 2015 when Dundalk put six past their neighbours without reply and those from the south side of the county would have been fearing a repeat when Dundalk raced into a two-goal lead by the 26th minute of play.
The much-changed champions — operating without the injured Robbie Benson and Patrick McEleney — hit the front when Dane Massey’s superb first-time cross from the left picked out David McMillan and he guided a fine header inside Stephen McGuinness’ post after 20 minutes.
Massey’s cross was penance for missing a gilt-edged opportunity just seconds earlier, the 28-year-old thrashing the ball wildly over the top after an incisive reverse pass by Michael Duffy.
At the other end, the Dundalk left-back was almost caught out in the seventh minute, offering up possession to Gareth McCaffrey on the left side of his penalty area. The Drogheda winger bore down on goal but he was denied by Gary Rogers, who sprung from his line to block the effort.
That miss looked even more costly for Drogheda when the natives doubled their advantage in the 26th minute. McMillan turned provider, linking up well with Thomas Stewart to tease a low ball across the face of goal for Duffy to turn home.
The alarm bells would have been ringing on Boyneside at this stage but, ironically, it was a Dundalk man who hauled the visitors back into it after 32 minutes.
Rogers came to collect Colm Deasy’s cross from the right but failed to gather, allowing Marc Griffin the chance to steal in behind Sean Gannon at the far post and hook the ball home from a very difficult angle.
Dundalk looked far from watertight at the back. Attack looked like their best form of defence and Conor Clifford almost punished Sean Thornton in emphatic style before the break, seizing on the Drogheda midfielder’s sloppy pass to dance past two challenges only to see his effort saved by McGuinness.
Gannon became the latest player to join the Dundalk injury list when he was carried off in the 50th minute after being caught by Griffin. Paddy Barrett came on in his place with Vemmelund moving to right back.
McMillan should have restored Dundalk’s two-goal lead in the 54th minute. Chris Shields hustled Thornton before playing the ball inside for Stewart who in turn teed up McMillan but he blazed over from no more than 13 yards out.
The pair combined again 10 minutes later with McMillan sending the Portadown man racing through on goal with just McGuinness to beat but his lifted effort lacked direction, much to Kenny’s dismay.
Drogheda were left to play the final 18 minutes with 10 men when former Dundalk centre-back Ciaran McGuigan was sent off for a second bookable offence, eight minutes after his first caution.
And Pete Mahon’s side paid the price for some horrendous defending from the subsequent free kick. Massey found McMillan in acres of space on the edge of the 18-yard box and his scuffed effort fell kindly into the path of Gartland who made no mistake from close range.
DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon (Paddy Barrett 50), Brian Gartland, Niclas Vemmelund, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Sean Hoare 85), Conor Clifford; Jamie McGrath, Thomas Stewart, Michael Duffy; David McMillan (Steven Kinsella 86).
DROGHEDA UNITED: Stephen McGuinness; Colm Deasy, Ciaran McGuigan, Luke Gallagher, Stephen Dunne; Richard Purdy, Sean Thornton (Ryan McEvoy 77); Gareth McCaffrey, Sean Brennan (Jake Hyland 60), Gavin Brennan; Marc Griffin (Stephen Elliott 66).
REFEREE: Ben Connolly.