Nathan Boyle struck a golden second-half equaliser for Finn Harps to earn Ollie Horgan’s men a draw in tonight’s First Division play-off first leg.
Drogheda United 1 Finn Harps 1
Substitute Boyle pounced for a brilliant equaliser just six minutes after replacing Jesse Devers.
Boyle’s 67th minute goal ensures that the tie is delicately poised heading into next week’s second leg at Finn Park.
Harps trailed to Ciaran Kelly’s 12th minute opener for the Drogs, but the Donegal side will be hopeful of edging what should be a nerve-jangling second instalment.
Harps had been waiting for three weeks for this game with Drogheda having to navigate two legs against Shelbourne. Drogheda, eventually, prevailed on penalty kicks against nine-man Shels on Monday night after a 2-2 aggregate draw.
Tim Clancy’s men, however, took the lead as Kelly riffled home after Sean Brennan’s corner caused panic in the Harps rearguard.
Harps had the ball in the net when Mikey Place tucked home after Gareth Harkin’s drive was palmed by Drogs ‘keeper Paul Skinner. The linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations from the big away support.
Drogheda were without Lee Duffy and Jake Hyland, while Harps saw Mark Timlin and Mark Coyle both available for action after injury concerns with Coyle entering the play just five minutes into the second half.
Harps ‘keeper Ciaran Gallagher had to be on his toes to thwart the indecisive Mark Doyle late in the first period.
Mikey Place was denied at the other end by Skinner, but Harps did get the goal they craved when it was a case of ‘Skinny’ beating Skinner.
Gallagher’s long punt upfield was misjudged by Kevin Farragher and Boyle nipped in, took a wonderful touch before rounding Skinner and firing to the net.
Late in the game, Ciaran Coll superbly headed away from Conor Kane and Harps held on for a precious, priceless, draw.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Ciaran Kelly, Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher; Colm Deasy, Kealan Dillon, Sean Brennan, William Hondermarck, Conor Kane; Mark Doyle, Chris Lyons.
Finn Harps: Gallagher; Sam Todd, Keith Cowan, Niall Logue; John Kavanagh, Jacob Borg, Gareth Harkin (Mark Coyle 50), Mark Timlin (Paddy McCourt 67), Ciaran Coll; Jesse Devers (Nathan Boyle 61); Mikey Place.
Referee: Neil Doyle.