Dundalk 4-2 Drogheda United
Two goals from Alex Williams was the undoing of ten-man Drogheda United as Dundalk put their local rivals to the sword at Oriel Park on Friday night to take a huge step away from the relegation playoff places. Ger Rowe’s exquisite finish fired the hosts in front midway through the half and, although Conor Kenna soon cancelled that out with a glancing header, Drogheda were hit with their second red card at the border venue this season as debutant Scott Gibb was dismissed for two bookable offences.
The Lilywhites retook the lead shortly after when Williams walked the ball home to give his side a half-time lead. They extended that advantage before the hour mark when Chris Turner slotted home his fifth penalty of the season after Kenna blocked Rowe’s goal-bound shot, and the lead was further increased on 66 minutes when Williams found his second of the evening after latching on to Turner’s pass before thundering a shot beyond the reach of visiting ‘keeper Paul Skinner. Shane Barrett missed a late penalty for Drogheda before James Chambers netted the best goal of the game with a long-range cracker. However, it was too little, too late for the visitors whose 11-year wait for a league win over Dundalk continues.
The game started evenly, and after a Guy Bates header was saved by Peter Cherrie, who was making his home debut along with Michael McGowan and Kevin McKinlay, Dundalk went closer to opening the scoring when the latter cracked a volley off the visiting crossbar, his effort getting a touch from Skinner. McKinlay then turned provider on 22 minutes as the hosts hit the front through a superb piece of play. The former Partick Thistle winger supplied an inch-perfect ball over the Drogheda defence for Rowe, who took the ball down expertly and fired a first-time shot past Skinner.
The lead lasted a mere nine minutes, though, as the Boynesiders replied just past the half hour. Brendan McGill took the free from the left wing and his cross into the Dundalk area was headed home by Kenna who rose above Cherrie to find the net against the Lilywhites for the second game running after also scoring in the 1-1 draw at United Park back in May. However, after getting themselves back on level terms, the night turned sour for Drogheda when, for the second time at Oriel Park this term, they were reduced to ten men as debutant Gibb was sent off for two bookable offences.
That gave Dundalk a lift and they regained the lead three minutes before the break when Williams scored for the second week in succession. McGowan fed the in-form striker inside the area and with Skinner the last line of defence the goalkeeper committed himself, leaving Williams with the easiest of tasks as he walked the ball into the net. Both sides made substitutions at the break as Tiarnán Mulvenna entered in place of McKinlay for Dundalk and Guy Bates was replaced by Chambers for the visitors. The hosts almost doubled their advantage early in the second half when Turner’s effort was blocked on the line after Skinner dropped a cross.
Within moments, Drogheda themselves had an effort on goal but McGill’s shot from just inside the box was off target as Alan Mathews’ men looked for a way back into the game. Their hopes of that were dashed, however, just before the hour mark when Dundalk made it 3-1 after being awarded a penalty against their local rivals for the third time this season. Turner’s initial shot was pushed away by Skinner but Mulvenna kept the move alive and crossed back into the box only for Kenna to head the ball away. Kenna then got in the way of Rowe’s goal-bound shot but this time illegally as he handled, with referee Tom Connolly pointing straight to the spot, before Turner stepped up to slot the ball home.
Dundalk were in cruise control and they made it 4-1 eight minutes later as Williams grabbed his second goal of the evening. Turner played in the Scottish striker who cut inside two players before rifling to the roof of the net with a superb finish. Drogheda almost got one back on 70 minutes but former Lilywhites midfielder Paul Crowley’s looping header was tipped over the crossbar by Cherrie after the 28-year-old connected with Shane Barrett’s cross. With the game petering out, Drogheda had an opportunity to get a consolation goal with five minutes left but Barrett blazed over from the spot. The visitors did get one back in injury-time, however, when Chambers fired a wonderful long-range shot to the net.
DUNDALK FC (4-4-2): Peter Cherrie; Shaun Kelly, Liam Burns, Thomas Heary, Michael McGowan (Paul McAreavey 75); Michael Daly, Chris Turner, Michael Collins (Darren Mansaram 72), Kevin McKinlay (Tiarnán Mulvenna HT); Ger Rowe, Alex Williams.
Goals: G Rowe (22), A Williams (42, 66), C Turner (58).
Booked: M Collins (69).
Unused Subs: Chris Bennion (GK), Simon Kelly.
DROGHEDA UNITED FC (4-4-2): Paul Skinner; Scott Gibb, Conor Kenna, Alan McNally, Eoghan Osbourne (Robbie Clarke 7); Brian King, Paul Shiels (Jamie Duffy 65), Paul Crowley, Brendan McGill; Guy Bates (James Chambers HT), Shane Barrett.
Goals: C Kenna (31), J Chambers (90+1).
Booked: S Gibb (27, 36), A McNally (27), P Shiels (48), C Kenna (57).
Sent Off: S Gibb (36).
Unused Subs: Steve Williams (GK), Ian Ryan.
Referee: Thomas Connolly (Dublin).