Jordan Adeyemo's late brace sealed a hard fought win for high-flying Drogheda United against struggling Longford Town.
United, who close the gap on third place, were full value for their win but had been given a fright by the visitors who hit back after going in at the break two goals down.
Ronan Murray’s free-kick and Mark Doyle’s finish had Drogheda in command before Aaron Dobbs pulled one back. Adeyemo’s superb 10-minute cameo helped sharp-shooting Drogheda over the line.
Gary Deegan's return from suspension offset the loss of Luke Heeney after his red card late on against Finn Harps. Drogs captain Jake Hyland missed out for the second successive game.
Daire Doyle made five changes as they sought to win for the first time since the opening day of the season. Credible draws against Dundalk and away to Derry suggest his team were getting to grips with their top flight assignment. However, back-to-back defeats have left the Town adrift of the sides immediately above them.
Ex-Drogheda forward Rob Manley and goalkeeper Michael Kelly were among those taken out. Lee Steacy and captain Dean Zambra returned, while Conor Davis was handed a first start of the season.
While Drogheda, who are the Premier Division’s top goalscorers, beat Longford 4-0 in the first meeting of the sides last month, the visitors had enjoyed themselves on Boyneside recently - winning both of their previous trips 1-0.
A repeat success would have taken a considerable reversal of fortunes as the promoted sides have experienced radically different returns to the top flight this term.
United had all of the chances in a first half that dominated, if not in possession, certainly when it came to posing a danger to their opponents goal. Chris Lyons headed wide twice before he squared for Darragh Markey but the winger couldn’t control his effort.
Dane Massey, with four goals in three games, headed over when he met Murray’s corner shortly before the opener.
Murray’s free kick from the left fooled the Longford defence, who might have expected a cross, and Steacy in particular. His right-footed hit crept into the top corner at Steacy’s near post. The goalkeeper got hands to the ball but was ultimately powerless to stop it.
Another Murray delivery almost lead to a quick Drogheda second before the home team doubled their advantage just before half time.
James Brown continues to stake his claim for the best attacking right back in the country. He was released down the right and he crossed for Doyle. The 22-year-old spun Aaron O’Driscoll and managed to squeeze a shot under Steacy from a tight ankle. It trickled into an unguarded net.
Longford emerged for the second half with a vigour and purpose seriously lacking before the break. They halved the deficit within eight minutes when Aaron Dobbs tapped in. Sensing an opportunity perhaps, Doyle introduced Rob Manley in attack.
But they created little bar a Dylan Grimes shot blocked by Brown. Adeyemo cut inside and finished smartly before adding a second in injury time.
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; Killian Phillips, Daniel O’Reilly, Dane Massey; James Brown, Gary Deegan, Ronan Murray (James Clarke 76), Conor Kane; Darragh Markey (Ryan O’Shea, 87), Mark Doyle, Chris Lyons (Jordan Adeyemo, 82).
Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Karl Chambers (Aaron McNally, 46), Michael McDonnell (Dean Byrne, 85), Aaron O'Driscoll, Patrick Kirk; Aodh Dervin, Dean Zambra (Aaron Bolger, 76), Callum Thompson; Conor Davis (Rob Manley, 55), Dylan Grimes, Aaron Dobbs.
Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo)