Niall Newberry reports from the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium
There was late drama at the Brandywell Stadium on Friday night as Dundalk missed the chance to go ten points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table after drawing 2-2 with Derry City.
Derry took a deserved lead four minutes before half-time through David Parkhouse before Georgie Kelly equalised for the Lilywhites after the restart. Dundalk thought they had sealed a dramatic win through Patrick Hoban’s header, only for Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe to do the same in the 95th minute.
The silver lining for Dundalk is that Shamrock Rovers also failed to beat Sligo Rovers on the same night, meaning the Lilywhites maintain their eight-point advantage at the top despite slipping up.
Back at the Brandywell, the big news prior to kick-off was of Dundalk striker Hoban’s demotion to the substitutes’ bench, while Andy Boyle made his first Dundalk appearance in almost three years.
Wearing the number 44 shirt, Boyle had the game’s first effort on goal when he headed straight into the arms of Peter Cherrie, who once upon a time made over a century of appearances for Dundalk.
The Lilywhites had another chance soon after that when the ex-Derry duo of Michael Duffy and Patrick McEleney combined before the latter unleashed a shot which flew just over the crossbar.
Derry weathered that early storm however, and actually had the better of the first half with Gary Rogers having to make two saves in quick succession from Jamie McDonagh and then Greg Sloggett.
It was one of those rare occasions where Dundalk struggled to stamp any real authority on the game and when they fell behind in the 41st minute, few could have argued they hadn’t seen it coming.
Maybe just not in this fashion though as Chris Shields made an uncharacteristic mistake – his loose pass going straight into the path of the grateful Parkhouse, who then finished with relative ease.
Dundalk upped the ante in the second period and Georgie Kelly had the ball in the net only for his effort to be ruled out for offside, much to sheer the delight of the natives seated in the main stand.
Vinny Perth’s side did get their equaliser on 57 minutes after Shields, atoning for his earlier mistake, did well before pulling the ball back for Georgie Kelly, who rifled a shot past Cherrie to make it 1-1.
The league leaders were now pushing for a winner and Cherrie had to make a world-class save when he tipped Jamie McGrath’s header over the bar following what was a good cross from Sean Gannon.
Dundalk huffed, puffed and looked to have had finally blown the Derry house down when Hoban – off the bench – powered home a header from Duffy’s corner in the last minute of normal time.
Derry hadn’t read that particular script however, and scored an almost identical goal at the other end on 95 minutes when Junior headed in from McDonagh’s corner from the right to make it 2-2.
A draw was perhaps a fair result between two teams that, although played attractive football throughout the night, probably didn’t create enough clear-cut chances to win the match.
Dundalk can now solely focus on their upcoming Champions League first qualifying round tie against Riga FC.
Derry City: Peter Cherrie; Jamie McDonagh, Eoin Toal, Ally Gilchrist, Ciaran Coll; Greg Sloggett, Ciaron Harkin; Darren McCauley (Darren Cole 65), Barry McNamee (Gerardo Bruna 82), Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe; David Parkhouse (Conor Davis 72).
Subs not used: Nathan Gartside (gk), Mark McChrystal, Adrian Delap, Eoghan Stokes.
Booked: Jamie McDonagh (10), Ciaron Harkin (54).
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle, Daniel Cleary, Dean Jarvis; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Jamie McGrath 68); John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 77), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; Georgie Kelly (Patrick Hoban 68).
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (gk), Brian Gartland, Dane Massey, Cameron Dummigan.
Booked: Dean Jarvis (44).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe (Derry City).