Drogheda United produced their best performance of the season to end Sligo Rovers unbeaten start to the season with a 2-0 semi final first leg win in the Setanta Sports cup at Hunky Dorys Park. Gary O’Neill opened the scoring with a sensational overhead kick after 25 minutes and David Cassidy doubled the home side’s advantage with a precise lob from the edge of the box.
Sligo almost hit the front after five minutes as Aaron Greene sent a terrific 20 yard effort crashing off the post as Gabriel Sava dived in vain. United responded immediately as a David Cassidy corner created confusion in the Sligo box and a powerful header from Alan Byrne was cleared off the line by Kieran Djilali.
Byrne then lost possession on the halfway line as Sligo broke quickly, Connelly playing in Greene down the left wing and his cross presented a simple chance for Elding but he headed wide much to the home side’s relief. Drogheda took the lead against the run of play as a long throw into the box from Shane Grimes was knocked on as far as O’Neill who hit a spectacular overhead kick into the top corner of the net.
Elding missed another chance a couple of minutes later as he connected sweetly with Alan Keane’s cross only for Sava to produce his first save of the game. United harried the Sligo side like no other team had done this season forcing them into misplaced passes and the Drogs capitalised with lightning quick counter-attacks.
Drogheda were developing a taste for the unexpected as Gavin Brennan sent a dipping left foot volley just wide of Gary Rodger’s goal. They scored the potentially crucial second goal as a kick out from Sava was flicked on by Gavin Brennan which sent David Cassidy through on goal who delicately lifted the ball over Rodgers for 2-0.
Sligo felt aggrieved that they weren’t awarded a penalty on the hour mark as a sharp turn by Elding was halted by Prendergast who appeared to have a handful of the Englishmen’s shirt but referee Mark Courtney waived play on. It was Elding again who tested Sava as his header at the back post from a corner was comfortably caught by the Drogheda number one.
Further Sligo pressure proved fruitless as an excellent defensive performance frustrated the league leaders and ended their unbeaten start to the season. Indeed, United almost finished the tie as a header from Ryan Brennan in additional time bounced narrowly wide.
A United side brimming with confidence must focus on their next game in the league, home to UCD on Friday, before concentrating on the pivotal second leg in the Showgrounds next Monday.
Drogheda United Team: Gabriel Sava, Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne (Alan McNally 87), Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes, David Cassidy, Paul O’Conor, Ryan Brennan, Declan O’Brien (Graham Rusk 81), Gavin Brennan, Gary O’Neill.
Substitutes Not Used: Micheal Schlingermann, Phillip Hand, Stephen Quigley, Michael Daly, Peter Hynes.
Sligo Rovers Team: Gary Rodgers, Alan Keane, Jeff Henderson, Gavin Peers (Evan McMillan 90), Iarlaith Davoren, Kieran Djiali (Pascal Millien 64), Ryan Connolly (Lee Lynch 72), David Cawley, Danny Ventre, Aaron Greene, Anthony Elding.
Substitutes Not Used: Adam Murphy, Liam Martin, Ross Gaynor, Raffaele Cretaro.
Referee: Mark Courtney
Droghedaunited.ie Man of the match: David Cassidy