Derry City 1 Drogheda United 1
City managed to end their losing streak against Mick Cooke’s United side, but the Candystripes were left to rue failing to take advantage of a first half that they dominated. The sides meet against at United Park next Monday night in the second leg with the Boynesiders now holding a crucial away goal in the tie.
City were utterly dominant in the first half and belied the fact that Drogheda had two more competitive games under their belt. The Candystripes hit the front after ten minutes when Rory Patterson fired a long free kick home. The ball did bobble over an awkward Brandywell surface but Gabriel Sava will feel he should he should have done much better.
City opted to switch between a 4-4-2 and a 4-5-1, with Patterson often dropping back into midfield in order to assist. City, missing a number of key players, dominated possession and chances in the opening period. Rafter, McNamee and Deery all had half chances for City to extend their lead. The visitors on the other hand were restricted to set pieces though Doherty did flap at a free, presenting Byrne a chance. The Derry keeper recovered well to tip the ball over the top, but this was his only involvement of the first half, whereas Sava was kept bust throughout. City appeared to have a clear shout for a penalty just before the break when Patterson was bundled over inside the area. The referee thought otherwise and Patterson, never a man to mince his words, ended up with a yellow card as a result of the incident.
The general consensus at half time was that City were good value for their lead, but that a second goal was needed in order to steady the nerves. With goals aplenty in the other ties on the night, the hope was that the home side would push on in the second half and begin to convert some of their chances into goal. Instead the second half saw a reinvigorated Drogheda United side and Declan O’Brien got them back on level terms after eight minutes. Greacen appears to lose his footing on the surface and the Derry defence opened up for the veteran striker who fired past the helpless Doherty.
Drogheda upped their performance and were a much improved outfit in the second half as the game evened out. Rafter felt he had a penalty shout when he was tackled in the box and Sava courted controversy when he handled outside the box, but was only booked for his troubles. O’Connor, the former UCD midfielder was impressive for the visitors and he missed a decent chance when he blasted wide ten yards out. Drogheda seemed to be happy with their away goal but were prepared to hit City on the break, whereas the home side pressed for a winner with no avail.