Ronan McNamara reports from Head in the Game Park
A sublime Will Patching free kick, his second of the game, was the winner for ten-man Derry City in a 2-1 win over an in-form Drogheda side in an enthralling encounter at Head in the Game Park.
The result ensures the Brandywell outfit stay unbeaten away from home under Ruaidhrí Higgins and edge further away from the bottom two heading into the mid-season break.
Patching gave the visitors an early advantage when his free kick from almost halfway bamboozled everybody and found the net before Mark Doyle levelled matters from the spot in the second half.
Patching’s delicious free kick in the 73rd minute was enough to give his team the spoils as Derry held on for the win despite playing the final ten minutes with ten men.
The first half was played at a rip-roaring pace and the Candystripes might have taken the lead in the opening minute after David Odumosu spilled a long-range effort, but the angle was too tight for David Parkhouse to turn home.
Patching broke the deadlock after ten minutes as the Dundalk loanee's seemingly harmless free kick from almost 40 yards out found the net beating Odumosu at the near post who was caught napping.
Drogheda had the lions share of possession in the opening half and looked threatening down the left hand side through Conor Kane and Darragh Markey.
They struggled to create a clear cut chance with their best chances falling to Dane Massey whose free kick stung the palms of Derry stopper Nathan Gartside.
Massey nearly bundled home from a Ronan Murray corner but he found the wrong side of the post.
Derry should have doubled their advantage on the half hour mark. Daniel O’Reilly made a hash of a bouncing ball just inside his own half. James Akintunde pounced and ran through on goal before dragging his left footed effort wide of the far post.
The hosts piled on the pressure for the remainder of the half but the visitors held firm to deal with an onslaught of Murray’s corners.
The second period began at a more pedestrian pace until Akintunde appeared to have been dragged down inside the Drogheda area only for referee Adriano Reale to stun the Derry players and award a free kick to the hosts. He didn’t book Akintunde for any possible dive either.
Drogheda were literally handed a lifeline when Cameron McJannet handled Massey’s cross leaving Reale no choice but to point to the spot.
Doyle dispatched the penalty kick down the middle with ease to send the crop of Drogheda fans watching from outside the ground into raptures as their pyro drifted across the ground.
McJannet went from zero to hero as he denied substitute Jordan Adeyemo a certain goal as he turned Doyle’s cross out for a corner on the stretch.
Ruaidhrí Higgins’ side went back in front with just over 15 minutes remaining. Patching’s sublime free kick from outside the box kissed the underside of the crossbar and bounced over the line, beating a despairing Odumosu.
The visitors were forced to see out the final ten minutes a man down after substitute Darren Cole was sent off within ten minutes of his introduction for two yellow cards.
Adeyemo looked like he had earned his side a second penalty but unbelievably he was booked for a dive despite looking like he was hauled to the ground by McJannet.
Doyle had a shot saved expertly by Gartside in the dying seconds as the Candystripes held firm to cling onto the three points.
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; Dane Massey, Conor Kane, James Brown (c), Daniel O'Reilly; Darragh Markey, Gary Deegan, Killian Phillips (Luke Heeney 18); Chris Lyons (Jordan Adeyemo 56), Mark Doyle, Ronan Murray (James Clarke 60).
Subs not used: Colin McCabe, Charles Mutawe, Sam O'Brien, Ryan O'Shea, David Samson, Donovan Troy.
Booked: Daniel O'Reilly (44), Jordan Adeyemo (69), Jordan Adeyemo (84), James Brown (90).
Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Daniel Lafferty (Jack Malone 73), Ciaran Coll, Ronan Boyce, Eoin Toal (c); Joe Thomson (William Fitzgerald 72), Will Patching, Cameron McJannet, Ciaron Harkin; David Parkhouse, James Akintunde (Patrick Ferry 90).
Subs not used: Caolan McLaughlin, Mark McChrystal, Danny Lupano, Jack Lemoignan, Darren Cole, Brendan Barr.
Booked: David Parkhouse (45) ,Cameron McJannet (62) ,Joe Thomson (69) ,Darren Cole (79) Darren Cole (81).
Sent off: Darren Cole (81).
Referee: Adriano Reale
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Will Patching (Derry City)