Drogheda United will take a first leg lead to the Showgrounds following a 2-0 win over Sligo Rovers at Hunky Dorys Park. Gary O’Neill opened the scoring with a sensational overhead kick after 25 minutes and David Cassidy doubled the home side’s advantage with a precise lob from the edge of the box.
Sligo almost hit the front after five minutes as Aaron Greene sent a terrific 20 yard effort crashing off the post as Gabriel Sava dived in vain. United responded immediately as a David Cassidy corner created confusion in the Sligo box and a powerful header from Alan Byrne was cleared off the line by Kieran Djilali.
Byrne then lost possession on the halfway line as Sligo broke quickly, Seamus Connelly playing in Aaron Greene down the left wing and his cross presented a simple chance for Anthony Elding but the striker headed wide much to the home side’s relief. Drogheda took the lead against the run of play as a long throw into the box from Shane Grimes was knocked as far as Gary O’Neill who hit a spectacular overhead kick into the top corner of the net.
Elding missed another chance a couple of minutes later as he connected sweetly with Alan Keane’s cross only for Sava to produce his first save of the game. Drogs worked hard to close down Sligo, forcing them into misplaced passes and then the hosts capitalised with lightning quick counter-attacks.
Drogheda were developing a taste for the unexpected as Gavin Brennan sent a dipping left foot volley just wide of Gary Rodger’s goal. They scored the potentially crucial second goal as a kick out from Sava was flicked on by Gavin Brennan which sent David Cassidy through on goal who delicately lifted the ball over Rodgers.
Sligo felt aggrieved that they weren’t awarded a penalty on the hour mark as a sharp turn by Elding was halted by Prendergast who appeared to have a handful of the Englishmen’s shirt but referee Mark Courtney waived play on. It was Elding again who tested Sava as his header at the back post from a corner was comfortably caught by the Drogheda number one.
Further Sligo pressure proved fruitless as an excellent defensive performance frustrated the league leaders and ended their unbeaten start to the season. Indeed, United almost finished the tie as a header from Ryan Brennan in additional time bounced narrowly wide.
The second leg will take place next Tuesday in the Showgrounds, with Ian Baraclough's side looking to overturn a two-goal deficit.