In what was an absolutely enthralling game and a terrific advertisement for the league, Derry City went through to the EA League Cup final, eventually beating Sligo Rovers 5-3 on penalties at the Brandywell.
Paul Cook put out a very strong side and Sligo started the game as favourites after Stephen Kenny opted to rotate a number of key players as well as having players injured and suspended. There was not much sign of how the game was going to turn out in the opening 25 minutes with a couple of half chances for Eoin Doyle and Richie Ryan being the only excitement but in the 29th minute Aaron Greene found himself through on goal and thundered a shot back off the post with Ferry stranded.
In the 33rd minute, slightly against the run of play, Derry City took the lead. A free kick just inside the Sligo half was swung in by Ruairi Harkin and was flicked on as far as Danny Lafferty who nodded the ball home from close range. This begun a period of real end to end stuff and just on the stroke of half time, Sligo regained parity after Danny Ventre powered in a header from an Aaron Greene cross, much to his manager Paul Cook’s delight sitting in the stand.
The second half began much as the first ended with some lovely counterattacking football being played by both sides. In the 52nd minute Kenny introduced the returning Owen Morrison to the fray and with his first touch he blasted a free kick just over the bar. Matthew Blinkhorn and John Russell both had great goalmouth chances but were thwarted by the superb Eugene Ferry. In the 76th minute David McDaid cleverly played a pass out to Ruairi Harkin who the centred it for Stephen McLaughlin to head home, much to the home crowd’s delight.
That lead was only to last four minutes however as Aaron Greene beat substitute Eddie McCallion to the byline and crossed where a grateful Eoin Doyle rifled home from close range. In the 90th minute Danny Ventre found himself clean through and was about to pull the trigger when Danny Lafferty brought him down from behind. Richie Winter went to his pocket and produced a straight red card which Lafferty could have no complaints about.
Extra time then ensued and the match was now being played at a frantic pace. In the 3rd minute of the added time, Owen Morrison sent a beautiful cross field ball to the feet of Stephen McLaughlin who checked back and sent a glorious 25 yard bending shot into the top corner of the Sligo net. As the second period began, the classy Joseph Ndo sent in an inch perfect cross which Eoin Doyle dispatched for his second of the evening. The last few minutes were played out nervously until Mr. Winter signalled it was to go to penalties.
Friars, Ndo, Higgins and Doyle all scored and Owen Morrison stepped up to make it 3-2 to the Candystripes. Richie Ryan then saw Eugene Ferry save his effort before Harkin made it 4-2. Kirby pulled one back, but man of the match Stephen McLaughlin slotted the last penalty in to send a jubilant Derry into the final where they will face their old rivals Cork City. It was a superb game and it was a shame that someone had to lose, but Stephen Kenny will be delighted at seeing his side through to another final.
Derry City: Eugene Ferry; Danny Lafferty, Ryan McBride, Shane McEleney (Eddie McCallion 78), Emmett Friars; Stephen McLaughlin, Ruadhri Higgins(c), James Henry (Barry Molloy 69), Ruairi Harkin; David McDaid, Michael McCrudden (Owen Morrison 52).
Subs not used: Thomas McGonagle, Patrick McEleney, Matthew Harkin, Rory Kelly.
Sendings Off: Danny Lafferty (90).
Drogheda United: Brendan Clarke; Rafael Cretaro, Jason McGuinness, Gavin Peers, Conor Powell; John Russell (John Dillon 98), Richie Ryan(c), Danny Ventre (Alan Kirby 104), Aaron Greene (Joseph Ndo 85); Eoin Doyle, Matthew Blinkhorn.
Subs not used: Iarfhlaith Davoren, Derek Foran, Ciaran Kelly.
Bookings: Richie Ryan (105).
Referee: Richie Winter.
Attendance: 1,200 (estimate).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Stephen McLaughlin.
Jamie Mahon joined the Extratime team at the beginning of 2011. Hailing from the North West, Jamie reports on all things Derry City. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamieMahon23.