Derry City grabbed a dramatic late equaliser at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium to draw 1-1 with north west rivals, Finn Harps.
With both sides going into the game on the back of contrasting results in week one of the season, the North West derby was one that neither team wanted to lose and neither did each set of fans, who created a great atmosphere throughout the game.
It was Derry who started the brighter without creating any clear-cut chances. The Candystripes passed the ball around well and kept possession but found it hard to get through a well organised Finn Harps team. It wasn’t until the 20th minute that Derry had a real attempt on goal, but Ciaran Harkin’s effort never looked like it was going in. Derry started upping the pressure and Figueira had a great chance in the 21st minute, volleying over from close range.
Indeed, it was Figueira who looked like the most likely man to create something for the home side, causing Finn Harps problems with his quick feet. But against the run of play, Derry City gifted Harps a chance, which Ryan Connolly couldn’t turn down. Derry’s insistence to play the ball out from the back backfired when they got caught in possession just outside their box. Connolly picked up the loose ball and curled it into an almost empty net with goalkeeper Peter Cherrie standing in no man’s land. The Derry City goalkeeper seemed to get his angles all wrong and it left the goal wide open for Connolly to Harps one goal up on the 32nd minute
Not much else happened in the half with Finn Harps happy to resume their game plan of sitting back and trying to catch Derry on the break. Former Derry City player Barry McNamee was a constant threat when he got the ball at is feet and was unfazed by the hostile reception he was getting from the home fans. His brother, Tony McNamee, was also playing his part in a great Harps display in the first half that would have people wonder why they were relegation favourites at the start of the season.
The second half started off lively with both sides creating chances early on. First, in the 48th minute, Barry McNamee had the chance to play in Connolly through on goal but his pass was over hit. Then in the 49th minute, Derry’s Jamie McDonagh whipped in a dangerous cross but nobody was there to put it away. Again, minutes later the combination of Barry McNamee and Ryan Connolly produced another chance but this time Cherrie had his angles right to stop the latter from curling a shot into the top corner.
A flurry of yellow cards came, in what was a feisty affair, with the two assistant managers getting involved with each other and exchanging words which resulted in referee Rob Hennessy giving both yellow cards. Derry City’s appeals for a penalty in the 57th minute were waived away, as Jamie McDonagh felt he was pushed over in the box. McDonagh, still feeling frustrated with the decision, was booked a minute latter for a rash challenge. Leo Donnellan went into the book shortly after for dissent, while Derry hit the bar in their attempts to find an equaliser.
New signing Tim Andre Nilsen had few chances to make a name for himself on his home debut but when they did, he failed to take them. The first one fell to the Norwegian in the 69th minute but it was blocked by Shane McEleney, who limped off shortly afterwards. Then moments later Nilsen again had a chance but missed the ball completely.
Derry City, who kept the ball well, could not find a way trough and resorted to long, hopeful balls into the box, which the Harps defenders dealt with quite easily. It wasn’t until injury time when they created clear cut chances. Firstly, Figueira jinked his way into the box and managed to get away a shot from a tight angle, only for Mark McGinley to push it away. But the Derry man continued to pose a threat and he then managed to find his way into the box before pulling it back to substitute Adam Liddle, who put the ball past McGinley with a brilliant first-time finish that sent the home fans delirious and left the away fans with their heads in their hands.
That was the final kick of the game, and although Derry snatched it late on, a draw was probably a fair result.
Derry City: Peter Cherrie, Ciaran Coll, Ciaran Harkin ( Jack Malone 72nd), Eoin Toal, Jamie McDonagh, Tim Andre Nilsen (Adam Liddle 76th), Walter Figueira, Conor Clifford (Stephen Mallon 66th), Danny Koy Lupano, Conor McCormack, Ally Gilchrist
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley, Kosovar Sadiki, David Webster, Karl O’ Sullivan, Barry McNamee, Shane McEleney (Mark Coyle 73rd), Mark Russell, Leo Donnellan (Gareth Hakin 63rd), Sam Todd, Ryan Connolly (Stephen Doherty 87th), Tony McNamee.
Referee: Rob Hennessy
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ryan Connolly