Waterford won three consecutive league games for the first time in almost three years to move out of the relegation zone as Marc Bircham's unlikely great escape act continued at Head In The Game Park.
Junior Quitirna’s 83rd minute winner secured a vital three points in their battle against the drop and surely now all the momentum is with the team from the RSC.
Earlier, John Martin’s headed opener was cancelled out by Jake Hyland’s tap-in. But Drogheda are out of sorts of late and despite the team’s respective league positions at the start of play, this result wasn’t that surprising in truth.
The home side were missing two of their defensive mainstays in James Brown and Dane Massey following their sendings off in the cup defeat to Derry last Saturday. Daniel O’Reilly returned from suspension while Luke Heeney was pressed into service at right back.
Waterford meanwhile, having progressed to the next round, could call on Anthony Wordworth who also saw red in the cup.
Based on their recent history against the Blues, United would have fancied their chances of returning to form with the visit Bircham’s team. Drogheda had won all of the last six league meetings between the sides, by an aggregate score of 17-3.
That include two victories this term, but against very different iterations of the team from the RSC. A narrow 1-0 opening day win over Kevin Sheedy’s hastily assembled young team was followed by a seven-goal thumping against the Waterford Under 19s.
Three months on and with the ex-Canada international at the helm, they are a very different proposition with an altogether more experienced look across the team.
From the dramatic cup win seven days ago, Bircham made five changes – including a return for goalkeeper Brian Murphy and first starts for Greg Halford and ex-Spurs and Watford youth attacker Phoenix Patterson, two players at opposite ends of their respective careers.
In an even first half, Drogheda created more presentable chances while failing to convert in front of 200 home fans at Head In The Game Park.
Dinny Corcoran couldn’t convert Ronan Murray’s cross just yards from goal. On the stretch, his effort skewed wide of the upright.
Mark Doyle saw a shot flash wide after a darting run past a number of Waterford defenders. Later on, his header almost left an advanced Brian Murphy embarrassed. However, it went over.
Waterford’s best chance came when Cian Kavanagh took Niall O’Keeffe’s pass in his stride. However, the teenager shot wide.
It took the visitors just six minutes to earn a lead after the break however. Shane Griffin’s whipped free kick from the left made it easy for Martin’s glance to help it into the net.
United’s leveller came from nothing. Daniel O’Reilly’s cross field ball found Murray in behind. He unselfishly squared for Jake Hyland who tapped in.
But Waterford’s substitutions – especially Quitirna and Prince Mutswunguma – changed things. The latter crossed for Quitirna to turn and finish. There was still time for Griffin to test Odumosu and Mutswunguma to hit the bar.
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; Luke Heeney (Jordan Adeyemo, 87), Killian Philipps, Daniel O’Reilly, Conor Kane; Gary Deegan, Jake Hyland; Darragh Markey, Ronan Murray, Mark Doyle; Dinny Corcoran.
Waterford FC: Brian Murphy; Kyle Ferguson (Jack Stafford, 46), Greg Halford, Cameron Evans; Darragh Power; Shane Griffin, Niall O’Keeffe, Anthony Wordsworth, John Martin; Phoenix Patterson (Junior Quitirna, 75), Cian Kavanagh (Mutswunguma, 69).
Referee: David Dunne