By Robert O’Reilly
Despite taking an 89th minute lead, Drogheda United were held 2-2 at home by Athlone Town in a dramatic contest at United Park.
Sean Thornton’s first-half header was cancelled out in the second-half by substitute Conor Barry though Drogheda appeared to grab a late winner through Jake Hyland only for Marco Chindea to volley past Patrick Dunican in stoppage time.
Drogheda created the first opportunity of the game as debutant Adam Wixted sent a deep cross to the back post which was met by Eoin Kirwan but his header across goal was off target.
In what was a familiar theme for much of the first-half, Drogheda took several shots on goal without really troubling Athlone goalkeeper Evan Moran as Hyland, Kirwan and Thornton all tried their luck from distance.
Drogheda eventually made the breakthrough on 37 minutes as a fine passing move down the right saw Colm Deasy cut inside and deliver a perfect cross on his weaker foot for Thornton to head home at the far post though the United captain was stretchered off having collided with Moran in the process.
It should have been 2-0 on the stroke of half-time as Deasy and Wixted combined down the right again and the latter crossed for Sean Brennan who missed his kick with the goal at his mercy and no Drogheda player following up.
Athlone began to assert some pressure at the start of the second-half but they were fortunate not to be reduced to ten men as Chindea followed through late on Aaron Molloy before pushing the Drogheda midfielder in the face though referee Robert Hennessy opted to only caution the Athlone man.
The game became stretched in the latter stages as Kirwan released Ashe in on goal but his shot was straight at Moran and a quick counter-attack from the visitors saw them level matters as Chindea’s deep cross was headed powerfully past Dunican by Barry.
In their quest for a winner, Drogheda manager Pete Mahon introduced Marc Griffin for his debut and he was instrumental as Drogheda regained the lead with Griffin flicking the ball over his marker before driving it across the box and Hyland was on hand to fire into the roof of the net.
There was one final twist however, as Barry’s cross-field pass found Chindea in plenty of room who side-footed the ball through the legs of Dunican in the 91st minute to seal a share of the spoils for the visitors.
Drogheda will be back in action on Monday as they entertain Bluebell United at United Park in the EA Sports Cup.
Drogheda United Team: Patrick Dunican; Colm Deasy, Niall Cooney, Luke Gallagher, Stephen Dunne; Adam Wixted (Marc Griffin 68), Aaron Molloy, Sean Thornton (Sean Brennan 41), Jake Hyland, Eoin Kirwan; Aaron Ashe (Mark Doyle 84)
Subs not used: Stephen McGuinness, Ken Costello, Joseph Jackson, Lloyd Buckley
Athlone Town Team; Evan Moran; Calvin Douglas, Kevin Farragher, Jack Tuite, Ian Fletcher; Marco Chindea, Val Feeney, David Cassidy, Adam, Kelly (Simon Dixon 74); Emeka Onwubiko (Alan O’Sullivan 88), Daniel Purdy (Conor Barry 58)
Subs not used: Sean Nolan, Cian O’Sullivan, Daryl Carrigy, Daniel Molloy
DroghedaUnited.ie Man of the Match: Jake Hyland
Adam Wixted (Marc Griffin 68)
Sean Thornton (Sean Brennan 41)
Aaron Ashe (Mark Doyle 84)
Adam, Kelly (Simon Dixon 74)
Emeka Onwubiko (Alan O’Sullivan 88)
Daniel Purdy (Conor Barry 58)