By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United took a massive step towards cementing their place in the promotion play-offs by defeating Cobh Ramblers 2-0 at United Park.
Two stunning goals in either half from Gareth McCaffrey sealed a fifth win in seven games as the Boynesiders opened up an eight point gap between themselves and the visitors.
Drogheda United manager Pete Mahon made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with UCD last week as Lloyd Buckley and John McKeown started in place of Colm Deasy and Aaron Ashe.
Cobh started the game brightly and they tested Stephen McGuinness inside the opening five minutes as he gathered Stephen Christopher’s strike at the second attempt.
The Drogs were dominating the ball without putting the Cobh goal under threat but that changed on 26 minutes. A long clearance from McGuinness was expertly controlled by McCaffrey and with only Paul Hunt to beat, he calmly slotted the ball beyond the onrushing keeper for the opener.
Buoyed by the goal, Drogheda went in search of a second and it nearly came five minutes later as Sean Brennan hit a daisy cutter from 25 yards that was well held by Hunt.
Ramblers were struggling as an attacking force and their best opportunity for an equaliser came in the form of a free-kick early in the second half. Shane O’Connor took the set-piece but his strike hit the wall with United clearing the loose ball.
With an hour played, the hosts doubled their lead in stunning fashion. A short free-kick saw the ball rebound into the path of McCaffrey who produced a stunning 25-yard curler that clipped the crossbar and post before crossing the line.
The hosts were in cruise control at this stage and they nearly made it three when McCaffrey rounded Hunt in goal before pulling the ball back for Jake Hyland who narrowly missed the top corner from an acute angle.
Cobh created their first genuine chance of the game on 75 minutes as a strong run through midfield from O’Connor saw him pick out the run of Jonathan Creamer who was denied by McGuinness.
A late rally from Cobh saw them force a flurry of corners in the dying stages but Drogheda saw the game out with ease as they secured a vital three points.
The Drogs will be back in action next Friday as they travel to face second from bottom Athlone Town.
Drogheda United Team: Stephen McGuinness; Lloyd Buckley, Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher, Stephen Dunne; Richie Purdy, Jake Hyland, John McKeown (Sean Thornton 72), Sean Brennan (Adam Wixted 77); Gareth McCaffrey (Liam Donnelly 87), Marc Griffin
Subs not used: Patrick Dunican, Sam O’Connor, Derek Doyle, Aaron Ashe
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt; Ian Mylod (Charlie Fleming 67), Cian Kingston, Ben O ‘Riordan, Kevin Mulcahy; Anthony O’Donnell, Stephen Christopher, Shane O’Connor, Eoin McGreevy; Craig Donnellan (Matthew Whelan 67), Jonathan Creamer (Rob Lehane 77)
Subs not used: Darren Murphy, James McSweeney
DroghedaUnited.ie Man of the Match: Gareth McCaffrey
John McKeown (Sean Thornton 72)
Sean Brennan (Adam Wixted 77)
Gareth McCaffrey (Liam Donnelly 87)
Ian Mylod (Charlie Fleming 67)
Craig Donnellan (Matthew Whelan 67)
Jonathan Creamer (Rob Lehane 77)
Gareth McCaffrey 26’, 61’