David Wilson reporting from Tallaght Stadium for extratime.ie
A battling away point for the Candystripes who came from two goals down to salvage a point at the expense of title chasing Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday evening.
In an entertaining second half, strikes from young guns Trevor Clarke and Jack Byrne put the home side on the cusp of a much needed three points, but goals from Ciaran Coll and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe gained a valuable away point for Declan Devine’s men.
The opening exchanges were shaded by Rovers. They kept the ball well, moving the rigid Derry defenders and looked to prise an opening. Byrne and Greg Bolger dictated as Ronan Finn played in a more advanced role.
The first opportunity of note fell to the away side after eight minutes. Derry who had been pinned in their own defensive third broke forward down the right with Junior. He found time and space and drove in a low cross to the on-running Barry McNamee; however he could only direct his header over Alan Mannus’ crossbar.
Aaron Greene, who led the line for the home side, will rue the chances he squandered in the first half. Firstly after 14 minutes, Dan Carr’s near post delivery found Greene in space from five yards but he could only direct wide.
Secondly, an eye-of-the-needle through pass from Bolger was collected by Greene who raced through on goal, he could only snatch at cross which was well defended by Eoin Toal as Carr looked for a tap-in.
Thirdly, after 25 minutes, Greene’s best chance came as he somehow headed over an excellently whipped corner by Byrne from three yards out.
The last 20 minutes of the first half Derry grew into the game. They managed to get a foothold in midfield through Greg Sloggett and Gerardo Bruna, whilst McNamee provided craft and guile in the number 10 position.
The second half started at a rip-roaring pace. Three minutes in Peter Cherrie saved well as Carr tried a bending effort from the right, whist from the resulting corner Greene was smothered well by Cherrie and a cluster of Candystripe defenders as he tried to turn home from four yards.
In the 52nd minute, the home side were in front. Greene was found well in space down the Rovers right. His cross-field pass to the marauding Clarke found the young left-back in acres of room 21 yards out from the Derry goal. His effort was struck well with his laces as it arrowed past the diving Cherrie into the far corner.
Two minutes later and the Hoops were two in front. A loose ball in the middle of the field was challenged for by Byrne and Derry striker David Parkhouse. Byrne was stronger and gained control of the ball before dribbling 24 yards out from goal and unleashing a hellish right-footed strike low into the bottom corner to the right of Cherrie.
57 minutes in and Derry struck back. The ball was worked well down the right between Ciaran Harkin and McNamee. McNamee’s right-footed cross to the back-post was met by the head of City left-back Ciaran Coll who notched his first of the season and a lifeline for the Derry boys.
The game was now blown wide open as more and more chances fell for both sides. Clarke had another effort after 59 minutes, before Carr’s effort was blocked for a corner. Noise levels in the ground began to increase in the summer sunshine and as Lee Grace went close with a header it looked like the home-side would add to their advantage eventually.
Eoghan Stokes replaced the struggling Parkhouse resulting in Junior playing through the middle and Harkin switching wings to the right-hand-side. Devine’s switch immediately made a telling impact as Coll nearly doubled his tally after he was found excellently by McNamee. Coll could only hit the side-netting much to the disappointment of the travelling support and the onlooking Derry-men James McClean and Shane Duffy.
The away side looked the more likely of the two to score and Rovers began to shut up shop. The creative and diminutive Byrne was substituted for Ethan Boyle with eleven minutes left as the Hoops went to 5 at the back with Joey O’Brien pushing inside to accompany Grace and Roberto Lopes in the centre-half positions as Stephen Bradley looked to hold on and consolidate.
The Derry pressure told however, a wonderful delivery from the right from Jamie McDonagh was met by the head of Sloggett. His effort could only be parried by Mannus as Junior was on hand to somehow bundle the ball over the line to the dismay of the home support.
It was no less than Derry deserve as they were excellent since going behind. The positional switches and the higher press by the Candystripes allowed them to win the ball higher up the park, resulting in more sustainable attacking pressure which troubled the Hoops.
With time running out, substitute Boyle sauntered forward and dribbled past some dangling Derry legs. As Boyle approached the box however, he threw himself to the ground in the hope of attaining a penalty. Referee Derek Tomney was on the spot and booked the wing-back for simulation and rightfully so.
Derry held on to a vital away point as they chase Bohemians in third. Rovers will know that its vital ground lost in the title race as they fall five points behind champions Dundalk.
Derry have some time off before their next game away to Cork City on the 28th of June, whilst it’s the Dublin derby next for Rovers as they face bogey side Bohemians in Dalymount next Friday in Dalymount Park.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Joey O’Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Trevor Clarke; Greg Bolger, Jack Byrne (Ethan Boyle 78), Ronan Finn (C), Dan Carr, Brandon Kavanagh (Sean Kavanagh 46); Aaron Greene (Joel Coustrain 67)
Unused Substitutes: Leon Pohls (GK), Orhan Vojic, Thomas Oluwa, James Furlong
Yellow Card: Ronan Finn (82) Ethan Boyle (86)
Derry City: Peter Cherrie (GK); Jamie McDonagh, Eoin Toal, John Kerr (Ally Gilchrist 79), Ciaran Coll; Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, Gregg Sloggett, Gerardo Bruna, Barry McNamee, Ciaran Harkin (Aidy Delap 77); David Parkhouse (Eoghan Stokes 65)
Unused Substitutes: Nathan Gartside (GK), Ronan McKinley, Evan Tweed, Shane McNamee
Yellow Card: John Kerr (69), Eoghan Stokes (83)
Referee: Derek Tomney
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Barry McNamee