Drogheda United 2 - 1 Sligo RoversFri, Oct 19 2012
Drogheda United have secured a place in the Europa League next season as they recorded a 2-1 victory over the new League Champions, Sligo Rovers, on Friday evening in Hunky Dory's Park.
Alan McNally had given Drogheda the lead on the half hour mark before Liam Buchanan replied with an equaliser which was immediately followed by a sending off for Declan O'Brien who protested the goal.
With the clock ticking down and the home side looking like they would have to wait until next week to qualify for Europe, Brian Gannon scored an unlikely winner with just minutes remaining as his sublime effort from distance beat found the back of the Rovers net.
The first chance of the game arrived inside the opening minute when Ryan Brennan set up his brother, Sean, whose header narrowly wide of the visitor's goal.
Lee Lynch had an equally good opportunity five minutes later when Joseph Ndo picked him out with a pass as he stormed through the Drogheda defence, but the midfielder failed to beat Gabriel Sava at his near post.
Declan O'Brien will be wondering how he didn't get on the score sheet early on when Peter Hynes flick fell to the club's top striker, but he somehow dragged his effort well wide of the target. A let off for The Bit O'Red.
Making his first start for the club, Liam Buchanan wasn't seeing much of the ball in the early stages of this club, but he could have opened the scoring in spectacular style as he tried to beat Sava from 25 yards, but the 'keeper done well to knock his effort over the bar.
Moments later the home side finally made their possession count when Alan McNally was found unmarked in the box as he headed home a Philip Hand's corner.
They may have considered themselves lucky not to be 2-0 done almost immediately after restart when Declan O'Brien forced his way into the box, but was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball as he attempted to chest it down.
Drogheda continued to apply pressure and had further chances courtesy of Hand and Eric Foley, but neither player could make the most of the opportunities presented to them as they took a deserved one goal lead into the half-time break.
A bigger second half performance was required from the Champions, and they certainly got off to a perfect start as Liam Buchanan equalised just after the restart.
The Scot initially hit the post before Lee Lynch returned the ball to him for a second chance, making no mistake this time, but there were calls of offside from the home players.
Things went from bad to worse for Drogs just moments later when Declan O'Brien was shown a second yellow card for dissent having protested to the linesman about Buchanan's goal.
Another player making his first Rovers start was Ryan Connolly, and the winger was unlucky not to score when John Dillon put him through on goal, but the impressive Sava was able to block his effort.
With ten minutes remaining, another golden chance fell to the visitors when Pascal Millien poor touch fell into the path of Dillon who took it on first time, but couldn't guide his shot into the back of the net.
Drogheda were refusing to give up on making their European dream a reality on the night, and suddenly they found themselves just minutes from making that happen when Brian Gannon beat Richard Brush with a superb effort from the edge of the box.
It could have been all square just after the re-start when Ross Gaynor's searching ball across the face of goal was remarkably missed by Rafael Cretaro before reaching Lee Lynch, but once again Sava was on hand to deny the visitors leaving with a point.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley, Alan McNally, Alan Byrne, Philip Hand; Sean Brennan (Jason Marks 83), Brian Gannon, Eric Foley (John Sullivan 72), Ryan Brennan; Peter Hynes (Tiarnan Mulvenna 65), Declan O'Brien.
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann, Cathal Brady, Johnny Breen.
Bookings: D O'Brien (31), Foley (65), R Brennan (90+3).
Sendings Off: D O'Brien (46).
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Jeff Henderson (Marty Owens 77), Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Ross Gaynor; Rafael Cretaro, Joseph Ndo, David Cawley (John Dillon 65), Lee Lynch, Ryan Connolly; Liam Buchanan (Pascal Millien 77).
Subs not used: Gary Rogers, Jake Dykes.
Bookings: Gaynor (52), Cretaro (69).
Referee: Tom Connolly.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gabriel Sava (Drogheda United).
Alan Finn is a Sligo based reporter and currently studying journalism. He created Thebitoredblog and joined ExtraTime in February of 2012. Follow him on twitter @AlanF1994