Drogheda United 1-1 Dundalk

Dundalk had their lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division cut to four points after they were held 1-1 by neighbours Drogheda United in an entertaining Louth derby.

An entertaining first half was lit up by two goals in the space of 30 seconds as Patrick Hoban stooped to head home Darren Meenan’s corner to put the visitors in front, before the Boynesiders immediately countered and Gary O’Neill turned in the box and fired past a static Dundalk keeper Peter Cherrie.

By comparison, the second period was a more cagey affair, with no clear-cut chances, although Cathal Brady’s snap-shot for Drogheda forced Cherrie into a save and Micheal Schlingermann denied Dundalk’s Darren Meenan.

Drogheda were quickest out of the blocks and immediately forced two corners, one of which led to a Michael Daly shot which was blocked by a defender in the crowded six-yard area.

But Dundalk countered with purpose and Kurtis Byrne was denied by a fine save from Schlingermann after Brian Gartland deflected a corner kick into his path.

That was just a taste of what was to come as two goals came in the space of 30 seconds coming up to the 20-minute mark, one at each end.

The Lilywhites struck first when Meenan’s measured corner was powerfully headed home at the near post by Hoban, but the celebrations in the packed away end were still going on when Drogheda’s Carl Walshe nodded the ball down towards O’Neill who turned in the box before rifling high past Cherrie.

There were good opportunities at both ends after that, with Ciaran McGuigan heading a corner kick wide for Drogheda and Daryl Horgan stretching to divert a Sean Gannon cross just wide.

But coming up to half-time, Dundalk looked the more likely to make the second breakthrough.

Schlingermann had to race back to his goal quickly to stop a Horgan effort after being forced out of his goal by a short back-pass, and Dundalk right-back Gannon then fired into the side netting from a promising position.

When play restarted it was Drogheda in the ascendancy, however, and Cathal Brady warmed the hands of Cherrie with a stinging hook shot.

Dundalk responded with free kicks from Richie Towell and Kurtis Byrne, neither of which troubled Schlingermann as the game remained finely balanced.

At the other end Brennan was then unlucky to see his 73rd-minute goal-bound header from a Cathal Brady cross strike Chris Shields on the back of the head, and Drogheda then had an escape as a snap shot from Meenan was saved by the legs of Schlingermann.

With news of Cork having beaten St Pat’s in the earlier kicker-off, Dundalk were more in need of a winning goal than their hosts, but they couldn’t fashion another chance and the game ended in deadlock.

Drogheda United: Micheal Schlingermann; Daire Doyle, Alan McNally, Ciaran McGuigan, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady, Michael Daly (Peter McGlynn 79), Gavan Holohan, Gavin Brennan, Carl Walshe; Gary O’Neill (Declan O’Brien 90 +2). Subs not used: Roy Kierans, Paul Andrews, Sean O’Connor, Garreth Brady, Dylan Connolly.

Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle, Brian Gartland, Dane Massey; Darren Meenan, Richie Towell, Chris Shields, Daryl Horgan; Kurtis Byrne (Donal McDermott 71); Patrick Hoban (David McMillan 84). Subs not used: Mark Rossiter, Ruaidhri Higgins, Marc Griffin, Gabriel Sava.

Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).