“Three Penalties!” were the words on most Derry supporter’s lips as they despondently left the Brandywell after witnessing a poor performance. Derry themselves actually played well for much of the game and Sligo Rovers had exceeded most expectations. The poor performance in question was that of referee Damien Hancock. Perhaps the video replays on Monday night will vindicate the little Dubliner but for the two thousand plus Derry fans in the stands the whistler robbed the Candystripes of at least two stone-wallers.
Not to take too much away from Sligo who came to their North-West “derby” rivals and stayed their course resolutely. Under pressure for most of the game, the defence held strong and two break away goals, first from Boco and then by Cretaro, saw the Bit o'Red leave with all three points.
The game started at pace and Sligo were first to test their opponents when Conor O’Grady drew an important save from Derry custodian Gerard Doherty. Thomas Stewart replied immediately for Derry forcing a fine save from Richard Brush. Next up was Owen Morrison for Sligo, keen to test his former team mates and perhaps prove a point to his former employers.
Back up the other end Stewart was at it again. He rounded the full back and earned a one-on-one with Brush but it was always going to be a tight angle. From the rebound, Derry winger Liam Kearney followed up and looked to have been up-ended as he won the race to the ball but there was no whistle from the man in the middle.
Clive Delaney set hearts racing when his header from a corner crashed off the crossbar and both sets of fans moved to the front of their seats in anticipation of an end-to-end battle.
On 27 minutes Derry had their second penalty shout ignored when Danny Ventre clumsily dragged Sammy Morrow down from behind. The disappointment was to get worse a short while later as Owen Morrison and Romauld Boco linked up well to punish a mistake by Ciaran Martyn in the centre of the park. Martyn mis-controlled and badly misjudged a pass and Morrison was only too happy to leap on the error to send Sligo’s Benin international forward through to goal. Mark McChrystal’s attempted block on the shot redirected the ball passed Doherty in the Derry goal a few minutes before half time.
Derry responded quickly and went into the interval back on level terms. Eddie McCallion’s throw-in found Morrow on the edge of the Sligo box. His sublime cross will have the fans wondering if he has eyes in the back of his head as he turned and launched what looked to be a wild ball beyond the back post, before Gareth McGlynn popped up to volley home emphatically from a tight angle.
In the second half Derry really took the game to Sligo, who had to dig deep to hang onto what they had at that stage, a point. The defence deserves a lot of credit for reducing Derry to a very limited number of half chances and pot shots even though Derry should have done better on a number of occasions.
While for the most part Derry could be found camped in the Sligo final third , Rovers still found the occasional bit of space to give their rearguard a breather. Gerard Doherty was twice called into action to deny Conor O’Grady and then Richie Ryan. However, a terrible defensive error from Clive Delaney gave Raffaele Cretaro an acre of space to run into and slide the ball passed Doherty to earn the visitors all three points with only minutes to spare.
Bohemians, playing tomorrow night against Dublin rivals St Pat's Athletic, will no doubt be keen to take advantage of Derry’s dropped points this evening.
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Eddie McCallion, Mark McChrystal, Clive Delaney, Ger O'Brien (James McClean 87); Gareth McGlynn, Barry Molloy, Ciaran Martyn (Mark Farren 68), Liam Kearney (Ruaidhri Higgins 80); Sammy Morrow, Thomas Stewart.
Subs not used: Pat Jennings (gk), Kevin Deery.
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre, Shaun Holmes; Owen Morrison (Brian Cash 67), Richie Ryan, Conor O'Grady, Sean Doherty (Paul McTiernan 80); Raffaele Cretaro, Romauld Boco (Eoin Torpey 78).
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly (gk), Steve Feeney.
Referee: Damien Hancock.