A brace of free-kicks from the on-loan Will Patching earned Derry City another away day success at Head In the Game Park – which will inevitably lead to questions about the playmaker's immediate future.

The Englishman is on loan at City from Dundalk and Jim Magilton suggested in midweek that he may be recalled to Oriel Park next month as the Lilywhites reassess their own squad.

His performance back in County Louth on Friday night may help make that decision for Magilton, but Derry will surely move to keep him at the Brandywell.

His strikes came either side of Mark Doyle's penalty, which briefly levelled the scores in the second half.

Referee Adriano Reale harshly showed two bookings to subs Darren Cole and Jordan Adeyemo late on, leaving both sides with just 10 men.

FULL MATCH DETAILS

The Candystripes arrived on Boyneside unbeaten in four away games since Ruaidhri Higgins’ appointment last month, winning three of those. United’s own excellent home record was under threat.

City started well and Patching forced David Odumosu into a save inside 90 seconds of kick-off. The goalkeeper was equal to his shot from 20 yards before David Parkhouse skewed the loose ball wide.

Drogheda’s first effort on goal arrived when Ciaran Coll felled James Brown. Dane Massey, with four goals in his last four games, hit his free-kick on target but Nathan Gartside palmed over.

Patching’s opening goal was just rewards for their bright side. It arrived when the on-loan Dundalk playmaker fooled goalkeeper David Odumosu and the United defence with a free-kick. With everyone awaiting a cross from the right, Patching curled the ball into a large area of the net vacated by the young stopper.

Odumosu looked slow to react as the ball headed for goal too, perhaps grounded by the surprise of Patching’s effort or expecting the ball to fly past the post.

Perhaps Patching had been watching on Monday when Ronan Murray had broken the deadlock against Longford in similar fashion but this time, Drogheda were the team made to look foolish.

Joe Thompson dragged a shot wide but Derry’s strong start soon faded and the home team grew into the game. Daniel O’Reilly’s header was blocked on the line by Thompson.

Moments later, however, the United centre-back failed to connect with a bouncing ball and James Akintunde ran through on goal. The Londoner’s tame left-footed shot was wide.

Murray’s long-range shot straight after the break showed Drogheda’s intent and their equaliser duly arrived. Cameron McJannet blocked O’Reilly’s header with his arm and Mark Doyle put his spot-kick down the middle.

His seventh goal of the campaign put him at the top of the goalscoring charts outright. But that will be scant consolation as United’s lead didn’t last.

In a similar position to his goal in the first half, Patching produced a strike that beat Odumosu all ends up. It crashed down off the bar before McJannet made sure but it looked to have crossed the line.

Cole’s cameo lasted just nine minutes, after he picked up two yellow cards from referee Adriano Reale. There were no complaints from the Derry bench. Reale even had time to even it up late on, showing another sub Adeyemo a second yellow card when he went down in the area.

Both managers on the touchline agreed neither deserved to be sent off. Mark Doyle flashed a last gasp effort across the Derry goal but the visitors held out.

Drogheda United: David Odumosu; Killian Phillips (Luke Heeney, 18), Daniel O’Reilly, Dane Massey, James Brown, Gary Deegan, Ronan Murray (James Clarke, 60), Conor Kane; Darragh Markey, Mark Doyle, Chris Lyons (Jordan Adeyemo, 56)

Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Eoin Toal, Cameron McJannet, Ciaran Coll, Ronan Boyce, Joe Thompson (Darren Cole, 73), Ciaron Harkin, Danny Lafferty (Jack Malone, 63); Will Patching; David Parkhouse (Will Fitzgerald, 73) , James Akintunde (Brendan Barr, 90+3)

Referee: Adrian Reale (Kildare)