Derry City outclassed Drogheda United with winger James McClean putting in another standout performance at Hunky Dorys Park on Friday night. Two Eamon Zayed goals either side of a Gareth McGlynn header saw Derry run out comprehensive winners.
To both sides credit, the first half was played at a blistering pace with possession switching between the two. However, Derry showed much more threat up front with Zayed and Patrick McEleney in particular looking good in the opening phases.
James McClean too looked menacing but it was the league’s leading goal scorer who opened the scoring with the first real chance of the game. Defender Stewart Greacen played a fantastic weighted ball from midfield which caught the Drogheda defence off guard. Zayed collected on the edge of the box before masterfully stroking the ball past Trimble, with a little help from the post.
Greacen followed that up just two minutes later but his powerful header was well saved. However these efforts showed the difference between the sides. Drogheda huffed and puffed for long phases during the half but failed to create enough clear goal scoring chances while Derry created goal scoring opportunities with apparent ease.
Tiarnan Mulvenna headed wide from a Philip Hand corner after 18 minutes but either side of that James McClean could have extended the visitors’ lead – the latter a glorious opportunity as the midfielder found himself completely unmarked in the Drogheda box, only yards from goal. However he sliced his effort wide.
Ten minutes before the break Drogs’ midfielder Peter McMahon almost made something out of nothing when his run and looping shot almost found the top corner of Ger Doherty’s goal. But it was another rare, half chance for the hosts.
Pat McEleney continued to harry the Drogheda defence and his persistence almost paid off when Brian Gannon completely missed what appeared to be a simple headed clearance. McEleney collected and tried a clever lob over Trimble, but the ball nestled in the side netting.
While it could be argued James McClean had a quiet first half by his high standards, he certainly made up for it in the second half with two assists and proved a constant threat down the left for Derry. On 54 minutes he burst into the Drogheda box, leaving three defenders in his wake, before firing just wide.
It was certainly a sign of things to come however as Derry pushed on in search of that second goal. The travelling side continued to work the ball wide as they had done in the first half and when James McClean collected the ball in space on the left wing he applied the killer touch. Gareth McGlynn connected with his floated cross to head past Trimble.
The goal sucked the life out of Drogheda and after that it was always going to be a case of how much. The third, and Zayed’s second, didn’t come until the 91st minute however. The goal was almost a carbon copy of the second. Again McClean crossed expertly and this time Zayed cooly volleyed home.
Drogheda had very few chances in the second half and on balance Derry were worthy 3-0 winners. Indeed, if not for Steven Trimble, it could have been a lot more.
Drogheda United: Steven Trimble; Alan McNally, Victor Ekanem, Brian Gannon, Philip Hand; Colin O’Brien, Mark O’Brien (Robbie Clarke, 81), Peter McMahon, Gavin Brennan (David Freeman, 81); Daniel Corcoran, Tiernan Mulvenna (Stephen Quigley, 81).
Subs not used: Aaron Shanahan, Robbie Gaul, Darragh McNamara, Stephen McCrossan.
Bookings: McNally (33).
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Eddie McCallion, Stewart Greacen, Danny Lafferty, Shane McEleney; James McClean, Ryan McBride, Gareth McGlynn, Ruaidhri Higgins; Eamon Zayed, Patrick McEleney (Stephen McLaughlin, 91).
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry, Emmett Friars, Ruairi Harkin, David McDaid, Michael McCrudden, James Henry.
Bookings: Greacen (22), Higgins (57), McCallion (66).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the match: James McClean.