oe Adams of Dundalk is tackled by Georgie Poynton, left, and Adam Foley of Drogheda United. (Pic: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
Drogheda United 1-0 Dundalk FC
Stephen O’Donnell tasted defeat for the first time in the SSE Airtricity League as Dundalk FC boss as his side lost 1-0 to Drogheda United at Head in the Game Park.
The awarding of a contentious penalty which was converted by Dean Williams on 50 minutes was all that separated the teams in the Louth derby – although crowd trouble following the full-time whistle marred what was an otherwise good sporting occasion.
Dundalk started brightly and created their first opening on four minutes when a Joe Adams free-kick from the right wasn’t dealt with by the Drogheda rearguard before finding its way to Andy Boyle, who saw his side-foot effort blocked out by Keith Cowan.
The visitors threatened once more as Sam Bone’s shot ricocheted off John Martin and out for a goal-kick after Sean Roughan had only half-cleared a Patrick Hoban cross.
Mark Connolly’s long ball over the top caught Drogheda napping, with Martin getting in ahead of the defence before pulling it back for Hoban, but he dragged his shot just wide.
Drogheda’s first chance came when a quick pass from Darragh Nugent set Dean Williams on his way, and he looked certain to open the scoring after rounding goalkeeper Nathan Shepperd – only for Boyle to get back and block out his attempt at the very last moment.
The visiting support thought their team had taken the lead on 26 minutes when, from an Adams left-field cross, Hoban’s rebound found the net after his initial shot was brilliantly kept out by Drogheda custodian Sam Long, but the flag was already raised for an offside.
Drogheda started to look the more likely to open the scoring after that, however, and Shepperd had to get down to save well from Adam Foley – before the Drogheda winger had another effort from an identical angle hit the side-netting a matter of seconds later.
Martin rescued Dundalk two minutes before the half-time break when he crucially headed off the line after Dane Massey’s volley had taken a wicked deflection off Boyle.
Drogheda were given an opportunity to go ahead from the penalty spot five minutes after the restart when Greg Sloggett was adjudged to have pulled Nugent down inside the box.
However, television replays suggested the Drogheda player may have dived, but referee Robert Hennessy wasn’t interested in Dundalk’s protestations and up stepped Dean Williams, who confidently dispatched from 12 yards – sending Shepperd the wrong way.
Now in search of a leveller to preserve their unbeaten record this season, Robbie Benson’s daisy-cutter from distance trickled into the arms of the untroubled Long.
Benson was again in the thick of the action shortly afterwards when he took it around a couple of Drogheda players, but Roughan blocked just as he was about to pull the trigger.
The hosts almost made it 2-0 on 58 minutes, though, as Foley teased and tormented the Dundalk backline before unleashing a left-footed shot which rattled the crossbar.
The Lilywhites could have equalised a minute after that when substitute Steven Bradley broke out on the right, but the Soccer Writers Player of the Month was foiled by Long.
Bradley’s chance was the closest O’Donnell’s side came to rescuing a point, with Bone hooking miles over the top from Sloggett’s knockdown – a fair indication of the lack of quality in what was Dundalk’s weakest showing of their opening seven league fixtures.
The returning Chris Lyons played a perfectly squared-ball right into the path of Foley, who really should have doubled Drogheda’s advantage, but just couldn’t get his footing right.
As the game entered its closing stages, Hoban’s snapshot from the edge of the area was straight at Long – while Keith Ward’s corner was flashed wide by the Dundalk frontman.
At the other end, with only a minute of normal time remaining, the lively Foley cut inside the Dundalk defence before dragging a shot mere inches wide of Shepperd’s near post.
Right on the 90-minute mark, Bradley showed some terrific skill out on the right before curling a decent shot which was deflected just wide of the mark by a Drogheda defender.
Bradley’s stoppage-time ball into the box was headed wide by Paul Doyle in what was the last meaningful piece of action – as Dundalk suffered a first league defeat of the season.
Drogheda United: Sam Long; Georgie Poynton (Andrew Quinn 83), Keith Cowan, Sean Roughan, Dane Massey; Gary Deegan, James Clarke; Adam Foley, Darragh Nugent, Dayle Rooney; Dean Williams (Chris Lyons 68)
Subs not used: Colin McCabe (gk), Aaron Davis (gk), Evan Weir, Dylan Grimes, Mohamed Boudiaf, Paddy Moore, Killian Cailloce
Dundalk FC: Nathan Shepperd; Lewis Macari (David McMillan 71), Mark Connolly, Andy Boyle, Sam Bone; Robbie Benson, Dan Williams (Paul Doyle 71), Greg Sloggett, Joe Adams (Keith Ward HT); John Martin (Steven Bradley HT), Patrick Hoban
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (gk), Brian Gartland, Darragh Leahy, Mark Hanratty, Ryan O’Kane
Referee: Robert Hennessy (Limerick)
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