|Match Report||Champions Drogheda United and league leaders St Patrick's Athletic served up a thriller as the Inchicore men twice came from behind to deny the Boynesiders a much-needed victory at United Park.|
The game fully lived to its billing, especially in the second half which was lit up by three goals in the space of seven minutes, but Pat's went home the happier as they preserved their nine-point lead over Paul Doolin's men.
Guy Bates, out for the last seven games, was a surprise choice as sole striker in the Drogheda line-up, while Brian Shelley was restored to right-back following his recent hamstring problem.
The home side started well as Shane Robinson grazed the post with an 18-yard shot, before former United player Keith Fahey sent a 30-yard free kick over the Boynesiders' crossbar.
However, Doolin's men hit the front after only eight minutes with a goal that the Pat's defence could easily have prevented. Paul Keegan swung in a free kick from the right towards the penalty spot, and the marking was poor as Adam Hughes guided a header beyond keeper Barry Ryan.
Pat's, denied space by their hosts' five-man midfield, were restricted to long-range efforts, although it took a vital interception by Ollie Cahill to stop Gary Dempsey as he prepared to shoot from close range.
And Drogheda should have doubled their lead following an amazing passage of play in the 20th minute.
Bates, Hughes and Graham Gartland all had goal attempts blocked on the line, before the scramble ended with Richie Baker rattling the Pat's crossbar.
Then the visitors' manager Johnny McDonnell was asked by eagle-eyed referee Anthony Buttimer to change his navy blue top because of a clash with his team's away colours.
Fahey had another free kick opportunity when Cahill fouled Bobby Ryan, but the defensive wall stood its ground and the last chance of the half fell to Hughes who looped a header over the Pat's crossbar.
When Gary O'Neill and Dessie Byrne were booked in the space of a minute straight after the restart, proceeding seemed to be going Drogheda's way, but the all-important second goal wouldn't come as Robinson shaved the post with a diagonal shot following Baker's incisive pass.
Drogheda keeper Jamie Ewings was finally called upon to make a save in the 59th minute when he stopped Fahey after an enterprising run into the box from the Pat's star.
But Robinson almost squeezed home from an angle and it was against the run of play when O'Neill hooked home the equaliser in the 70th minute from close range after a corner was headed goalwards by Jamie Harris.
Just three minutes later Drogheda were back in front when Pat's were caught on the counter attack and Baker cleverly put the on-rushing Stuart Byrne through on goal.
The skipper ran 40 yards unchallenged before firing decisively past Ryan.
Incredibly, Pat's were back on terms after just four further minutes, Dempsey heading home from close range after Fahey's cross from the right.
In a grandstand finish, Hughes and substitutes Aidan O'Keeffe and Eamon Zayed all had chances for Drogheda, while Ewings saved brilliantly from Pat's sub Glen Fitzpatrick and denied Dempsey with the last kick of the game.
Ewings, Shelley, Gavin, Gartland, Cahill, Baker, Hughes, Keegan, Byrne, Robinson, Bates. Subs: Zayed for Bates (75min), O'Keeffe for Baker (85min)
St Patrick's Athletic
Barry Ryan, Brennan, Harris, Paisley, Byrne, Guy, Fahey, Dempsey, Barry Ryan, O'Neill, Quigley. Subs: Kirby for Barry Ryan (63min), Fitzpatrick for Guy (74min).
Referee: A Buttimer