A second-half penalty by Dean Williams secured a deserved away point for Drogheda United in Derry as they extended their unbeaten run to four matches while Derry are without a win now in seven games.
They recovered from a slow start to grow into the game and are now looking at drawing closer to sides above them in the table
Derry City will be wondering how they managed to drop yet more points at home. Especially given how positive and adventurous they were in the first half. The result saw them lose further ground on Dundalk who sit just above them in second place. Not even a late flurry could see the Candystripes net a winner.
The home side made four changes from their home draw with Finn Harps. Cameron Dummigan and Patrick McEleney were able to shake off their injuries to return to the side.
The visitors had six changes. Both Sam Long and Sean Roughan returned to Lincoln City following a loan spell, Luke Heeney and Gary Deegan were suspended and Chris Lyons and Keith Cowan dropped to the bench.
City are a team with a string of poor results, but that did not seem to trouble them in the opening period. Almost immediately Brendon Kavanagh played a precise ball through the Drogheda back-line towards Jamie McGonigle and Matty Smith. It was the latter who won the race, but his touch was too heavy as he attempted to round Colin McCabe. The goalkeeper was also tested a few minutes later as he claimed the ball under the attention McGonigle.
The pressure exerted by the Derry players almost paid dividends shortly after. The ball is played forward but seems to have been too long. Smith harassed Andrew Quinn into conceding possession down the left flank before he crossed into the box.
McGonigle dummied it and it fell to Will Patching at the back post. His volley was tipped away by McCabe.
The goal did eventually arrive though, and it was reward for patience for Derry. Smith drove down the line and crossed it in yet again. It was overhit on this occasion, but Kavanagh was able to retrieve it. His floated cross found McGonigle in the box who headed goal-wards.
McCabe stopped that effort but was powerless to prevent Smith from slamming home the rebound.
The best effort from Drogheda came towards the end of the half. A set-piece was floated into the box, but Ryan Brennan was only able to head over at the back-post.
The home side strove to extend their lead at the start of the second half. Patching received the ball from McEleney before shifting the ball onto his favoured left-foot. His eventual attempt drifted wide though.
Drogheda were beginning to grow more into the game as Derry began to drop further back. The likes of Adam Foley, Dean Williams and Dylan Grimes were seeing more of the ball and creating chances as a result.
Williams found himself bearing down on goal as he was able to beat the offside trap. Caoimhin Porter was just about able to dispossess him before he was able to shoot.
Shortly after Foley fashioned out an opportunity for Brennan on the edge of the box. The midfielder hit it first time, but Maher saved it at his near post. The home fans were getting increasingly nervous as they were desperate to see a win at last – their team’s last win was back in April.
And their fears were realised as Drogheda drew level. It was all down to sloppy play at the back from the home side. Foley played a decent ball into the box to be met by a clearing header from Joe Thomson.
He put not enough on it though, and Brennan looked to take advantage of it. He got a push into the back from Patrick McEleney and they were awarded a penalty. Williams beat Maher from the resulting spot-kick.
Derry tried to get back in front but struggled to create much clear openings against a resolute Drogs defence. Shane McEleney almost created a chance for McGonigle with a whipped ball. His header went over under pressure from Evan Weir.
The home fans screamed for a penalty as McGonigle went down in the box, and James Akintunde’s shot was blocked. Nothing awarded though.
Boos rang out at the final whistle as the fans expressed their frustration with the match officials it seems. Derry hope to end their poor form as they travel to UCD next Friday. Drogheda will be hopeful of closing the gap on sides above them as they host Sligo Rovers on the same evening.
Derry City: Brian Maher; Shane McEleney, Cameron Dummigan, Ciaran Coll, Cameron McJannet; Patrick McEleney, Brandon Kavanagh (James Akintunde 64), Will Patching, Caoimhin Porter (Joe Thomson 64); Jamie McGonigle, Matty Smith.
Subs not used: Nathan Gartside, Evan McLaughlin, Daithi McCallion, Orrin McLaughlin, Daniel Lafferty, Liam Mullan, Jack Malone.
Booked: Cameron Dummigan (35), Ciaran Coll (41), James Akintunde (71).
Drogheda United: Colin McCabe; Evan Weir, Andrew Quinn, Dane Massey; Dayle Rooney, George Poynton, Darragh Nugent, Dylan Grimes (Adam Foley 41), James Clarke (Darragh Markey 66), Ryan Brennan; Dean Williams.
Subs not used: Aaron Davis, Keith Cowan, Evan Haddock, Charles Mutawe, Hamzat Salam.
Booked: James Clarke (37) .
Referee: Alan Patchell .
extratime.com Player of the Match: Darragh Nugent (Drogheda United)