By Jim MacArdle
A goal after only five minutes from captain Sam Byrne was enough to secure victory for the Drogheda United Under 17s at United Park on Saturday against a tough Longford team who fought right until the final whistle.
While it was a welcome opening three points for Gerry Gosson’s team, they have a bit of work to do to tighten things up, particularly in the middle of the field, and they can thank new keeper Daniel Grace who made a couple of great saves and gave defenders around him plenty of confidence.
The Drogs took the lead after only five minutes when a beautifully delivered Cameron Brennan corner from the left eluded the home defence and Byrne sent the ball to the net from close range.
Then followed a tough midfield battle and as the first half wore on, Longford came much more into the game and as the half hour approached the Drogs were inclined to over-elaborate their passing out of defence and conceded control of midfield to the visitors who created quite a number of chances going forward.
Two minutes from half time keeper Grace came out quickly to make a point blank save when a equaliser from the visitors seemed certain.
So, the Drogs went in with their lead intact, knowing that they would have to up their game in the middle of the field for the second half. And so it proved, the Drogs quickened their passing and created a few half chances and on 68 minutes Stephen Doran headed over from corner and the visitors, although not dominating as in the first half, were unlucky to see a speculative shot from the left on 70 minutes hit the post with Grace beaten.
Although Longford dominated quite a bit of the first half, Byrne, Doran, and Dunne were solid a resolute in the middle of the Driogs defence and Ryan O’Shea took up where he left off last season with a great display of skill and strength at left back.
In midfield Brennan, Peat and in particular Michael McHugh showed some great touches and with a little more luck they can prove to be a force this season.
Team: Daniel Grace, Ryan O’Shea, Stephen Doran, Sam Byrne ©, Derick Dunne, Michael McHugh, Leo Tang, Sean Peat (Gregory Akinsanya), Callum McDonnell, Cameron Brennan, Karl Spooner (Kian Hussey).
Subs not used: Harry Hogan, Frank Cabraley, Tom Adeyinka, Niall Blaney, Cian Quinn.