In a night of high drama in the Airtricity League, Derry City came from a goal down to eventually defeat a spirited U.C.D side 2-1 at The Brandywell on Friday night.
The first half never really got going for the home side and in the 5th minute, the lively Darren Meenan split the Derry defence but his shot was just the wrong side of the upright. Derry broke immediately and McLaughlin was unlucky not to connect with a Kevin Deery cross to open the scoring.
In the 14th minute Eamon Zayed found himself one-on-one with the exceptional Ger Barron but the striker’s shot was parried.
A lovely passage of play from the students was to give them a shock lead on 19 minutes. The ball was brought out from defence and Graham Rusk played a lovely one-two with Robbie Creevy before dinking the ball over Gerard Doherty much to his team mates’ delight.
In the 28th minute Derek Tomney showed his first yellow card to Hugh Douglas for a foul on the edge of the area. Stephen McLaughlin swung the ball in and Stewart Greacen crashed a header off the crossbar. Further chances were spurned by P McEleney and Zayed before Barron tipped a Lafferty strike onto his post.
The first half then petered out with Derry looking a touch nervous in possession and the students certainly weren’t flattered by the score line.
As the second half began Stephen Kenny opted to bring on the returning Gareth McGlynn for Eddie McCallion as City chased an equaliser. Graham Rusk was also withdrawn at the break with Samir Belhout coming on for U.C.D. This marked a turning point in the game as the Candystripes laid siege to the students’ goal for most of the second period.
In the 51st minute, a great bit of skill saw Pat McEleney dupe his man but he shot just wide. In the 53rd minute, a cleared cross found Kevin Deery 20 yards out and his shot was magnificently saved by Barron. A minute later a great run and shot from Lafferty was again palmed brilliantly onto his post although Eamon Zayed should have done better with the rebound.
It wasn’t until the 70th minute that Derry got their equaliser that their pressure deserved. Zayed was put through and instead of shooting, laid a simple pass on for Deery who calmly stroked home from 8 yards, much to the relief of the home support.
There was more drama to come in the 80th minute when U.C.D substitute Chris Lloyd found himself one-on-one with Gerard Doherty, but the Derry keeper spread himself well to parry.
Derry then took the lead in the 83rd minute when the exceptional Barry Molloy marauded up the right wing, turned his man and put a beautiful low cross in for David McDaid to tap home. Derry were searching to extend their lead when Derek Tomney blew for full time after 3 added minutes. The second half display meant Derry were deserving of all 3 points in the end although U.C.D can be very proud of their efforts.
Derry now go top of the league, a point ahead of Shamrock Rovers and two ahead of Sligo, in what should be a terrific run in with plenty of twists and turns no doubt.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Eddie McCallion (Gareth McGlynn 46), Stewart Greacen, Shane McEleney, Danny Lafferty; Stephen McLaughlin, Barry Molloy, Rhuaidhri Higgins, Kevin Deery (c); Patrick McEleney (David McDaid 78), Eamon Zayed.
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry, Mark Farren, Emmett Friars, Ryan McBride, Ruari Harkin.
Bookings: Barry Molloy (73).
U.C.D: Ger Barron; Hugh Douglas, David O’Connor, Tomas Boyle, Sean Russell; Paul O’Conor, Darren Meenan, Dean Marshall (Chris Lyons 71), Robbie Creevy(c); Paul Corry; Graham Rusk (Samir Belhout 46).
Subs not used: Mark McGinley, Barry McCabe, James Kavanagh, Robbie Benson, Stephen Doyle.
Bookings: Hugh Douglas (28), Paul O’Conor (33).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ger Barron.