Drogheda United hung on to earn a 1-1 draw against Galway united in Hunky Dorys Park on Friday night. In a fiery encounter which saw five yellow cards handed out, Philip Hand got the home side off to the ideal start after only seven minutes but Sean Kelly levelled for Galway early in the second half.
Following their 4-0 defeat to Shamrock rovers last week, Drogs' boss Mick Cooke rang in the changes with only six players keeping their place in the starting XI. Galway were unchanged from the side that lost to Sligo Rovers in their last league outing.
Galway started brightly and had their first shot at goal after only two minutes. Bobby Ryan found Joseph Yoffe in space on the edge of the Drogs’ box. He turned onto his left foot but his tame effort was saved easily by Stephen Trimble.
Despite Galway’s impressive start, the opening goal came from the hosts after seven minutes. David Freeman ghosted past Galway defender Stephen Walshe before delivering an inch perfect low cross to Hand. The winger fired home from six yards out.
Drogheda could have doubled their lead five minutes later when Hand’s corner was met by the head of Drogs’ captain Brian Gannon. But his powerful header was saved magnificently by Galway stopper Greg Fleming.
These chances were very much against the run of play and Galway looked for a quick response to Hand’s goal. On 16 minutes defender Sean Kelly had a great chance. Striker Alan Murphy picked him out on the edge of the box with a wonderful cross from the left but the centre back completely mistimed his attempted volley.
Indeed most of the home side’s chances were limited to counter attacks as Galway dominated possession for long phases of the first half. Striker Joseph Yoffe looked dangerous and could have levelled matters on 27 minutes when a long ball ricocheted off centre back Shaun Maher and into Yoffe’s path but his first touch was too heavy and Trimble collected.
Despite the intense pressure, Stephen McCrossan continued to pose problems for the Galway midfield. He seized on some loose play in the centre circle and worked the ball wide to full back Gareth Whelan. His floated cross into the Galway box was punched away by Fleming but only as far as McCrossan on the edge of the box. However his goal bound effort was cleared off the line.
After that it was all Galway. They looked particularly dangerous from set pieces with winger Karl Moore putting some wonderful balls into the Drogs’ box. Arguably the best chance fell to Sean Kelly who was now operating as a third midfielder. But he could only header over the bar as the first half drew to a close.
Galway picked up where they left off after the break and continued to dominate possession. Kelly resumed his advanced role and after eight minutes of play he equalised for Galway. Shaun Kelly’s dribble and cross from the right was only half cleared by the Drogs’ defence. Sean Kelly collected inside the box and unleashed a terrific drive that Trimble had no chance of stopping. 1-1, and game on.
For the home side their only hope of restoring their lead rested on rare forays into the Galway half. On 61 minutes, Philip Hand put in a good cross from the right but neither David Freeman nor Darragh Hanaphy were on hand to apply the killer touch.
Soon after, the ineffectual Freeman was replaced by midfielder Colin O’ Brien with Drogheda attempting to crowd the middle and prevent Galway from playing their free passing game. And for the most part this tactic worked quite well with the remainder of the game playing out with few clear chances and very littler between the sides.
Substitute Enda Curran looked promising. His turn and shot midway through the half appeared to be heading for the back of the Drogheda goal but for a fine save by the busy Steven Trimble. Curran had another effort three minutes later but the striker was denied once again by Trimble.
As the game drew to a close, a hectic finale ensued with both sides hungry to take all three points. Galway thought they had done just that when Stephen Walshe met Shane Keogh’s free kick with a cracking header into the bottom left corner of Trimble’s goal. However the effort was ruled out for offside.
Three minutes later the move of the match saw Galway break out of defence through Karl Moore. His cross field ball found Brian Cash who forced another terrific save from Trimble. Drogheda enjoyed some longer spells of possession in the second half but failed to test Fleming frequently enough and should be happy enough to come out of this one with a point.
Drogheda United: Stephen Trimble; Mark Nolan, Gareth Whelan, Brian Gannon, Victor Ekenam; Stephen Quigley (Robert Kovacsevics, 82), Stephen McCrossan, Mark O’Brien (Jack Flynn, 73), Philip Hand; David Freeman (Colin O’Brien, 68), Darragh Hanaphy.
Subs not used: David Quirke, Darragh McNamara, Philip McDonagh, Sean Skelly.
Bookings: Ekanem (86), Whelan (89).
Galway United: Greg Fleming; Shaun Kelly, Shaun Maher, Paul Sinnott, Stephen Walsh; Brian Cash, Sean Kelly, Alan Murphy (Eduardo Dusi, 22), Karl Moore; Bobby Ryan (Shane Keogh, 79), Joseph Yoffe (Enda Curran, 53).
Subs not used: Conor Winn, Rory Gartlan, Gary Kelly, Steve Feeney.
Bookings: S Maher (20), Sean Kelly (55), E Curran (86), S Walsh (87).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Sean Kelly (Galway United). The defender cum midfielder put in a great shift in both positions and took his goal very well.