Derry City dropped points for the second time in three days as a second-half Drogheda United rearguard action denied the league leaders at Head In The Game Park.

Ruaidhri Higgins was pleased to have another match come along so soon after Friday's shock defeat against Shelbourne, but this wasn’t quite the return to form he would have hoped for.

The performance was good, the result not so. With Shamrock Rovers earning back-to-back wins over the Easter weekend, the gap at the top is now just one point. Derry supporters will hope this is a blip and a return to their first-round form is just around the corner.

That feels inevitable, given the quality in the squad. They began this game with Patrick McEleney and Jamie McGonigle on a strong bench.

Both of those entered the fray in the second half but after Ryan Brennan cancelled out Joe Thomson’s opener in the first half, there were no further goals. That was down in large part to United’s resolute backline.

They restricted the number of clear chances Derry created in the second half. When the visitors did break through, outstanding goalkeeper Sam Long stood in their way.

FULL MATCH DETAILS

Drogheda enjoyed an impressive start to the game, undoubtedly buoyed by their three points at UCD on Friday evening. They will also have anticipated the chance to pile more misery on Derry, making the most of a weakness exposed for the first time this year by Shels.

Luke Heeney forced a save from Gartside and Drogheda forced four corners inside the opening 10 minutes.

At the other end, Cameron Dummigan dragged a long-range shot well wide before a first genuine chance of the game fell City's way. One wing-back supplied another but Danny Lafferty’s header from Ronan Boyce’s deep cross was off target.

Thomson’s opener arrived just after the half-hour mark had been breached. Derry moved the ball through Will Patching and then Ronan Boyce to fashion the shooting chance. The midfielder made no mistake from range.

On the overall balance of play in the first half, it was hard to argue against Drogheda deserving their equaliser. It arrived five minutes before the interval. After Derry failed to clear a set-piece, Evan Weir’s volley towards goal bounced up perfectly for Brennan to direct a header into goal.

Daniel Lafferty of Derry City in action against Luke Heeney of Drogheda United

Will Patching tested Long from range early in the first half but the hosts were not carved open by any means. Long produced another save to deny fellow Scot Matty Smith and then late on, Shane McEleney’s header came back off the upright.

United held on to become the second team from the bottom half of the table to stop the early season Derry march.

Drogheda United: Sam Long; Andrew Quinn, Sean Roughan, Dane Massey, Evan Weir; Gary Deegan, Luke Heeney (Keith Cowan, 86); Dylan Grimes (Georgie Poynton, 61), Ryan Brennan (Darragh Nugent, 69), Dayle Rooney; Chris Lyons.

Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Shane McEleney, Eoin Toal, Cameron McJannet; Ronan Boyce, Joe Thomson (Brandon Kavanagh, 68), Cameron Dummigan, Danny Lafferty (Jamie McGonigle, 69); Will Patching, Matty Smith; James Akintunde (Patrick McEleney, 68).

Referee: Alan Patchell.