by Robert O'Reilly
A second half strike from Lee Duffy was enough for Drogheda United to earn a valuable point away to Longford Town in an evenly matched contest.
Kaleem Simon broke the deadlock early on for the hosts but a second half revival from the Drogs eventually saw them level though they were grateful for goalkeeper Micheál Schlingermann who made a number of critical saves to ensure that United left City Calling stadium with a result.
Drogheda manager Johnny McDonnell made one change from the side that lost to St Patrick’s Athletic last Friday as Adam Whelan, who missed out due to tonsillitis, was replaced by the in-form Duffy.
Longford, who went into the game in seventh place courtesy of Bray Wanderers’ victory over Galway United Friday night, were forced into an early change as captain Mark Salmon came on for the injured Dean Kelly and the midfielder came close to opening the scoring as his shot from the edge of the box hit the side netting,
The hosts were rewarded for their positive start on ten minutes as Kevin O’Connor’s cross from the right found Simon and the winger controlled the ball before slotting it past Schlingermann.
Drogheda had failed to settle in the opening stages and they were fortunate to keep eleven men on the pitch as Alan Byrne cynically fouled Gary Shaw just outside the box before being booked and the 32 year old defender repeated the trick in the penalty area a minute later although referee Jim Mckell waved play on.
United’s only genuine goalscoring chance of the first half arrived on the half hour mark when Schlingermann’s long clearance played Tiarnan Mulvenna through on goal but his well struck volley clipped the crossbar with Longford goalkeeper Paul Hunt beaten.
The Boynesiders started the second half in a much brighter manner and they were awarded a penalty on 50 minutes as Sean Thornton was taken down by O’Connor though the Drogheda born midfielder sent his spot kick high over the bar.
Drogheda did not let the miss deter them and they deservedly equalised with a quarter of the game to play as substitute Ger Pender played Duffy through on goal and he finished low past Hunt for his seventh goal of the season.
De Town almost regained their lead instantly as O’Connor’s low drive looked goal bound only for a stunning one handed save from Schlingermann to deny him as the home side looked the more likely to score the winner.
Schlingermann produced an even better save late on as he stopped David O’Sullivan’s close range volley as Drogheda held on for a vital point.
The results sees Drogheda stay in ninth in the table though they are only a point behind Bray in sixth and they will be hopeful of picking up a first win in four when they host Shamrock Rovers at United Park on Friday.
Ayman Ben Mohamed
Dean Kelly (Mark Salmon 3; David O’Sullivan 74)
Mark Hughes (Stephen Maher 80)
Sean Brennan (Robert Bayly 87)
Jason Marks (Ger Pender 60)