By Robert O’Reilly
A 95th minute equaliser from Ciaran Kelly was enough to earn Drogheda United a dramatic point at home to Longford Town.
Dean Byrne had given Longford the lead early in the second-half but relentless Drogheda pressure late on was finally rewarded with virtually the last kick of the game.
Drogheda manager Tim Clancy named an unchanged side from the one that defeated UCD last week though Eoin McPhillips was rewarded with a place on the bench having scored in Monday’s EA Sports cup victory over St Mochta’s.
Longford had the first strike of the game on six minutes as Sean Brennan was robbed of possession deep inside his own half though Aodh Dervin’s strike failed to trouble Paul Skinner in goal.
A series of fouls out wide gave Drogheda the chance to put the ball in the box as Luke Gallagher headed over Brennan’s delivery.
The Drogheda man was in the action again as he picked out the inside run of Mark Doyle who was tackled by Shane Elworthy with the ball almost deflecting into the path of Lee Duffy.
Two good free-kick opportunities apiece were wasted before the visitors squandered the best chance of the half. Dervin found Evan Galvin out wide and he cut the ball back for Tristan Noack-Hofmann who dragged his effort from the edge of the box harmlessly wide.
Drogheda had strong appeals for a penalty turned down early in the second-half as Doyle took the ball beyond Elworthy only for the defender to kick the leg of the Drogheda winger as he went to shoot.
The hosts were further incensed by the decision as Longford took the lead two minutes later. Brennan’s pass was intercepted by Karl Chambers and the substitute ventured forward before picking out Byrne who curled a delightful 25-yard strike beyond Skinner.
A high press from Doyle almost resulted in an immediate equaliser for Drogheda as he dispossessed Chambers on the edge of the box and he picked out Gareth McCaffrey though his close-range strike was superbly blocked by Adam O’Connor.
The Longford defence was under considerable pressure as the game entered the latter stages with Doyle firing across the face of goal before Mick Kelly produced a fine save to tip Ciaran Kelly’s header over the bar.
Drogheda weren’t to be denied though as with seconds remaining Kevin Farragher’s long ball was cleared only as far as Ciaran Kelly and the centre-back produced a striker’s finish to side foot the ball low into the far corner of the goal.
A point sees Drogheda slip to second in the table and they will be back in action next Saturday when they travel south to face Cobh Ramblers at St Colman’s Park.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Luke Gallagher (Colm Deasy 69), Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly, Conor Kane; Sean Brennan, Richie Purdy (Stephen Meaney 80), Jake Hyland; Mark Doyle, Gareth McCaffrey (Chris Lyons 67), Lee Duffy
Subs: Luca Gratzer, Lloyd Buckley, Kealan Dillon, Eoin McPhillips
Longford Town: Mick Kelly; Shane Elworthy (Karl Chambers 55), Daniel O’Reilly, Adam O’Connor, Tristan Novak-Hofmann; Peter Hopkins (Dylan McGlade 68), Dean Zambra, Aodh Dervin, Evan Galvin; Dean Byrne (Sam Verdon 83), Chris Mulhall
Subs: Jack Brady, Cian Byrne, Jamie Hollywood, Daniel Ridge
Droghedaunited.ie Man of the Match: Ciaran Kelly