Sligo Rovers slipped further behind leaders St Patrick's Athletic at the top of the Premier Division table after they were held to a draw by Drogheda United at Head In The Game Park.
United took an early lead after Chris Lyons capitalised on Ed McGinty’s error in the Sligo goal. Another goalkeeping mistake allowed teenager Johnny Kenny to level before the break.
Tim Clancy’s side have now won just one of their last seven league outings but after narrow defeats to Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, the manager will be pleased to take points from Liam Buckley’s side who started the day amongst the pacesetters at the top of the division.
After successive narrow defeats to Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, Clancy made an attacking alteration to his line-up by switching to four-at-the-back. Hugh Douglas, captain at Oriel Park last week, dropped out while three-goal top scorer Mark Doyle returned.
Sligo’s unbeaten start came to an end at struggling Derry City and Buckley made three changes in a bid to bounce back and keep pace with the sides above them. Walter Figueira returned while Lewis Banks made his first start of the season and Shane Blaney was handed a debut.
The opening goal came against the run of play, but with Sligo looking blunt in the final third, Drogheda punished an McGinty error. The goalkeeper left his goal to collect Ronan Murray’s free but was left flapping at the light Boyneside breeze.
Daniel O’Reilly headed the ball to an unmarked Chris Lyons in the six-yard box. His header evaded two defenders on the line.
The visitors' only two chances of any note in the first 30 minutes of the contest were speculative long-range efforts that were hit straight by Drogheda goalkeeper Colin McCabe. Johnny Kenny and Jordan Gibson were the players who had to produce better.
An equaliser, fully deserved as it was, arrived before the break. United, perhaps expecting referee Rob Harvey to blow for a foul on Lyons, allowed Figueira to surge forward and shoot from 25 yards. His low effort was on target but saved by McCabe.
He couldn’t hold onto the ball however and as it squirmed from his grasp, Johnny Kenny closed in and rounded the goalkeeper before tapping in.
Romeo Parkes and English defender Banks set their sights from range either side of the break as, although Sligo continued to dominate possession, penalty area action remained at a premium.
The introduction of midfielder Luke Heeney for the ineffectual Doyle helped Drogheda in their bid to see more of the ball and they greatly improved as the second half progressed.
Sligo were unable to fashion many more chances. Jordan Gibson stung the palms of McCabe but it was comfortable enough. The most presentable opportunities fell to Drogheda’s 19-year-old Killian Phillips.
James Brown’s pull back from the byline evaded everyone in the area but with time and space at the back post, Phillips’ finish lacked composure and cleared the crossbar. He was again well positioned late on but his well-struck shot was the wrong side of the post and then the busy youngster had a shot blocked by John Mahon.
Greg Bolger’s late free kick was on target but held by McCabe.
Drogheda United: Colin McCabe; Killian Phillips, Daniel O’Reilly, Dane Massey, James Brown, Gary Deegan, Ryan O’Shea; Darragh Markey, Ronan Murray (James Clarke, 73), Mark Doyle (Luke Heeney, 53); Chris Lyons.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty, Lewis Banks, Garry Buckley, John Mahon, Robbie McCourt; Greg Bolger, Shane Blaney; Jordan Gibson, Walter Figueria; Johnny Kenny, Romeo Parkes (Ryan De Vries, 80).
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin)