Longford Town's inevitable relegation from the Premier Division was confirmed and Drogheda's hopes of staying in the Premier Division for another year were boosted, as goals from Darragh Markey and Mark Doyle proved the difference at Head In The Game Park.
Longford’s fate has been sealed for a long time but defeat in Drogheda confirmed their relegation. A win for Waterford at the RSC would have relegated Daire Doyle’s team anyway.
United struck twice in the second half to earn a win that keeps their head above the relegation playoff water. It was a win they deserved against opponents who hardly laid a glove on their hosts all evening.
An upturn in form which saw Tim Clancy’s side beat Dundalk and Bohemians on home soil had been underpinned by two straight defeats, in which Drogheda have failed to score.
It was no surprise to see nine-goal Chris Lyons make his first start in almost exactly three months. A knee injury has kept him out of action since then. Despite missing such a huge chunk of the season, there are still only three players ahead of him in the Premier Division goalscoring charts.
That points to what an influential season he was having before his layoff. He had scored in two of United’s three games against Longford earlier in the campaign.
Successive three goal defeats meant Longford’s surprise win over Dundalk last month counts for little. They did arrive on Boyneside having lost just two of their last seven against the Drogs. Both of those results arrived this term, with Longford shipping four on each occasion.
The Town's demotion has been on the cards for most of the season. A small band of hardy Town supporters did make the journey hoping for another successful night against Louth opposition.
Dean Byrne’s early free-kick stung the palms of David Odumosu as Longford started the game well. For the home team, this game was very consequential. They remain perilously close to the relegation play-off spot as a largely positive first season back in the top tier draws to a close.
A win against the basement boys was required and for the majority of a bumper home crowd, expected.
Doyle came closest to giving Drogheda the lead goal they coveted. His brilliant turn and shot came back off the foot of the post before James Brown screwed the rebound wide. Then Lyons was inches from turning in Brown’s low cross.
Another surging run forward from Drogheda’s right wing-back led to their next big chance. Doyle should have scored with only Lee Steacy to beat. Instead, the club’s leading scorer scooped his shot over the bar.
All the visitors could muster in response was an Aodh Dervin free-kick that was struck harmlessly wide.
The opening goal arrived seven minutes after the restart. Steacy failed to hold Doyle’s tame shot. Markey stole in to touch it around the goalkeeper and tapped in. He was excellent throughout, as was Brown - arguably United's standout performer in 2021.
Markey turned provider for Doyle at the midway point of the second half. He twisted and turned away from Ben Lynch and delivered a pinpoint cross which Doyle expertly headed in to seal the points.
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; Joe Redmond, Daniel O’Reilly, Dane Massey; James Brown (James Clarke, 90+1), Gary Deegan, Killian Phillips, Conor Kane; Darragh Markey (Luke Heeney, 73), Chris Lyons (Jordan Adeyemo, 73), Mark Doyle
Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Shane Elworthy, Mick McDonnell, Aaron O’Driscoll, Ben Lynch; Aodh Dervin, Aaron Robinson, Darragh Nugent (Aaron McNally, 84 ); Rob Manley (Conor Davis, 68), Dean Williams, Dean Byrne (Dylan Grimes, 61)
Referee: John McLoughlin (Westmeath)