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Table-toppers Derry City see lead cut further after draw at Drogheda United

The Candystripes were held to a 1-1 draw at Head in the Game Park.

Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins.
Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins.
Image: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Drogheda United 1

Derry City 1

LEAGUE LEADERS DERRY City have seen their six-point cushion at the top of the Premier Division cut to just a single point as they were held to a draw by Drogheda United at Head in the Game Park.

Ruaidhri Higgins’ side huffed and puffed but ultimately the home side stood firm in the face of constant second-half pressure to earn an impressive point.

Joe Thomson had got Derry off to the perfect start in the first half. His thunderous drive put them in control despite Drogheda beginning the game the better of the two sides. Their lead lasted less than 10 minutes as Ryan Brennan levelled.

Higgins looked ahead to the trip to Boyneside by suggesting it offered his team the chance to immediately bounce back from their shock first defeat of the campaign. Just 72 hours after that reverse at Tolka Park, this offered the pacesetters an opportunity to reassert their dominance.

Kevin Doherty’s attacking options were severely reduced for the visit of the Candystripes. He was without strikers Adam Foley and three-goal Dean Williams, while Darragh Markey is a long-term absentee.

Nathan Gartside continued to deputise for first-choice goalkeeper Brian Maher, who missed a second straight game after testing positive for Covid.

United began well, with Luke Heeney testing Gartside. Derry’s foray forwards saw Cameron Dummigan shoot wide and Danny Lafferty head at goal too. Neither chance duly bothered on-loan goalkeeper Sam Long, but he would end the game a deserving man-of-the-match.

He was beaten when Thomson fired in his second of the season on 31 minutes. Ronan Boyce teed him up and the midfielder found the bottom corner. His only other goal this season also came in Louth, a short hop up the M1 at Oriel Park.

Drogheda’s first-half performance warranted going in level at the break. Brennan also notched his second of the season to provide them a deserved equaliser. He headed in after Evan Weir volleyed an effort on goal into the ground. It sat up nicely for the Drogheda native.

The second half was played almost exclusively in the Drogheda half of the field, as was United’s last home match against Bohs. Doherty’s side earned a surprise draw from that one and they repeated the trick here. it was the perfect birthday gift for their manager.

Long saved superbly from compatriot Matty Smith while Will Patching’s long-range efforts were simple for him. Derry made a triple substitution to force matters but none of Patrick McEleney, Brandon Kavanagh or Jamie McGonigle could make the difference.

The latter shot over in injury time, after Shane McEleney’s header hit the post. The United goal lived a charmed life at times, but they defended stoutly.

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Playing basement side UCD at home on Friday will offer Derry another chance to return to winning ways.

Drogheda United: Sam Long; Andrew Quinn, Sean Roughan, Dane Massey, Evan Weir; Gary Deegan, Luke Heeney (Keith Cowan, 86); Dylan Grimes (Georgie Poynton, 61), Ryan Brennan (Darragh Nugent, 69), Dayle Rooney; Chris Lyons.

Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Shane McEleney, Eoin Toal, Cameron McJannet; Ronan Boyce, Joe Thomson (Brandon Kavanagh, 68), Cameron Dummigan, Danny Lafferty (Jamie McGonigle, 69); Will Patching, Matty Smith; James Akintunde (Patrick McEleney, 68).

Referee: Alan Patchell.

BTL 5

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