Fiachra Gallagher reports from United Park
Drogheda United missed a golden opportunity to seize the initiative in the SSE Airtricity First Division title race as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at home to Cobh Ramblers.
League leaders Cabinteely remain in pole position for automatic promotion, despite a 3-0 defeat to Bray at the Carlisle Grounds.
Drogheda dictated play for vast swathes of this clash, but Naythan Coleman’s clinical 66th minute strike knocked the wind out of Tim Clancy’s side. They never recovered.
The real hero of the night, however, was Sean Barron. The keeper – who arrived at the Cork club from Avondale United in January – produced a string of phenomenal saves throughout the tie to deny the men in claret and blue.
The most significant of those stops came on 18 minutes. After some suspect defending from the away side, Chris Lyons was taken down in the penalty area.
Lyons stepped up to take the spot kick he’d earned, but the resolute right hand of Barron denied him. It would be the only clear-cut opportunity of the first half.
Drogheda continued to dominate proceedings after the penalty kick: the home side consistently looked to Brandon Bermingham and James Brown on the right flank as they launched attack after attack. Despite some probing deliveries, an end product eluded the hosts.
The second half began as the first had ended – the hosts were in control and asking questions from the wings. Inside nine minutes, however, the ball was in the Drogheda net.
A lapse in concentration from David Odumosa saw the goalkeeper rifle the ball off a white shirt, and it tricked past him into the goal.
The goal was flagged for offside, and the home side could breathe easy again.
The disallowed score marked a shift in the match’s progression. Cobh were able to get on the ball now, and the reward came on 66 minutes.
Although they were by no means the better side up to that point, Cobh were able to punish the hosts when Coleman placed his shot around Odumosu to break the deadlock.
What followed was a clinical display of safeguarding a lead. Drogheda seemed to be all out of options: balls weren’t falling for them, and at one stage substitute Stephen Meaney looked for a penalty that was rightfully dismissed.
The avenues that Bermingham and Brown offered in the first half closed up. Drogheda were playing all the football, but doing nothing with it.
Clancy made a number of changes as the match shuddered on, but to no avail. Cobh snuffed out anything that resembled a threat, with Barron leading by example in the nets.
The final whistle came after a number of feeble attempts by the Boynesiders to salvage something from the clash.
Cobh will relish this result – a win on the road is never taken for granted, let alone against title challengers Drogheda.
For the home side, this cannot be viewed as anything other than a missed chance. There is no one to blame but themselves.
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; Derek Prendergast, Conor Kane, Hugh Douglas, James Brown; Richie O'Farrell (Jordan Adeyemo 75), Mark Hughes; Chris Lyons (Stephen Meaney 78), Mark Doyle, Brandon Bermingham (Adam Wixted 68).
Subs not used: Ross Treacy, Killian Phillips, Ryan O'Shea, Stephen Meaney, James Clarke, Jordan Adeyemo, Adam Wixted.
Cobh Ramblers: Sean Barron; Ben O'Riordan, Charlie Lyons, Darryl Walsh; Stephen O'Leary, David Hurley, Lee Devitt Molloy, Naythan Coleman (Christopher O'Reilly 83), Ian Turner; Martin Coughlan (Greg Henry 46).
Subs not used: Christopher O'Reilly, Jack Leonard, Greg Henry, Conor Drinan, Cathal Crowley, Darragh Crowley, Gavin Ryan.
Booked: Naythan Coleman (9)
Referee: Marc Lynch.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Sean Barron (Cobh Ramblers).