FAI Cup Report: Drogheda United 1-3 Bohemians
Ronan MacNamara reports from Weavers Park
A second half Jonathan Afolabi brace helped Bohemians into their second FAI Cup semi-final in three years at a rain sodden Weavers Park.
Hold Me Now rang from the away section after Afolabi’s 90th minute penalty put the visitors 3-1 ahead and it was a deserved margin of victory for Bohemians who recorded their first away win since April in all competitions.
Krystian Nowak put Bohs ahead on the stroke of half-time before Ryan Brennan equalised from the spot five minutes into the second half to seemingly tee up a grandstand second period.
James Clarke played to his tag of August Player of the Month and he proved to be the shining jewel in this damp, scrappy affair.
The former Drogheda darling provided an expert assist for Afolabi to put the Dubliners back in front five minutes later, before the in-form striker made it lucky 13 from the spot after being taken down by Evan Weir.
The game kicked off amidst a smokey cloud of pyrotechnics and a raucous atmosphere although Drogheda didn’t start with the expected fire and brimstone.
Rather it was Bohemians, chasing their first away win since beating Drogheda in April, who got to grips with things after a scrappy start. Afolabi held the ball up well for Clarke to pull the ball back for Danny Grant who volleyed just over the bar on the run.
Moments later Conor Keeley breathed a sigh of relief after his slip in midfield allowed Dylan Connolly to pounce and run through on goal but Andrew Wogan produced an excellent save to spare his defender’s blushes.
Bohemians had a penalty appeal waved away by referee Damian McGraith midway through the first half after Brennan tangled with Clarke.
Two minutes before the interval Declan Devine’s charges took a deserved lead after Jordan Flores’ corner fell to Nowak who flicked the ball home from close range.
This came moments after a chaotic spell in the area where Adam McDonnell had a free kick saved by Wogan and Afolabi, a shot cleared off the line by Conor Kane.
Drogheda came out swinging at the start of the second half and were rewarded with a leveller from the spot.
Brennan beat Jordan Flores to a breaking ball and he was clipped inside the area leaving Graith no option but to point to the spot.
The midfielder made no mistake from twelve yards, finding the top corner with ease.
Bohemians responded and within five minutes they were back in front and in some style.
There was a touch of class about Afolabi’s goal as he swept home with his left foot into the far corner after an outstanding driving run and pass from man of the match performer Clarke.
Afolabi wheeled away to celebrate his 12th goal in all competitions, a player brimming with confidence following his Republic of Ireland call-up last weekend.
Drogheda, looking to arrest a three-game losing streak against the Gypsies and keep alive their hopes of reaching a first FAI Cup decider in a decade, struggled to mount much of a fightback, surrendering possession at ease with a disjointed midfield and attack.
The visitors were happy to sit back and challenge Drogs to play through them knowing they had Afolabi as a focal point to launch a counter attack.
Drogheda began to huff and puff and forced a series of corners but it was Bohs who should have sealed their place in the semi-final three minutes from time after McDonnell’s driven corner found Afolabi free.
But he inexplicably glanced wide from eight yards. A minute later, Clarke passed up a game winning opportunity.
After Adam Foley wasted a good opportunity for Drogheda, Bohemians broke again and Afolabi was sent tumbling over by Weir in the area before he dispatched the penalty with ease, sending Wogan the wrong way as the clock hit the 90.
Drogheda United: Andrew Wogan; Conor Kane (Luke Wade Slater 82), Conor Keeley, Evan Weir; Ryan Brennan, Gary Deegan, Adam Foley, Luke Heeney, Darragh Markey, Dayle Rooney; Kyle Robinson (Warren Davis 68).
Subs not used: Colm Cox, Ryan Maher, Jamie Egan, Jarlath Jones, Matthew O’Brien, Emre Topcu.
Booked: Conor Kane (33), Dayle Rooney (40), Adam Foley (41).
Bohemians: James Talbot; Keith Buckley, Jordan Flores, Krystian Nowak, Kacper Radkowski; James Clarke, Adam McDonnell, James McManus (John O'Sullivan 90); Dylan Connolly (Kristopher Twardek 75), Daniel Grant (Declan McDaid 75), Jonathan Afolabi.
Subs not used: Luke Dennison, Cian Byrne, Louie Holzman, Alistair Coote, Oluwaseun Akintunde, Bartłomiej Kukułowicz.
Booked: Keith Buckley (58).
Referee: Damian McGraith
extratime.com Player of the Match: James Clarke (Bohemians).