Derry City 2(McNamee, McBride) Shamrock Rovers 1(Rice)
Derry notched up their sixth straight victory last night after a hard fought battle against Trevor Croly’s Shamrock Rovers side, who certainly posed a challenge to the home side. Three second half goals and a frantic end to the game eventually saw City hold on to claim all three points but this was certainly far from an easy victory for the Candystripes.
With Shane McEleney missing through suspension, Dermot McCaffrey made his first start of the season at centre half. However City were forced into a change after just nine minutes when Paddy Kavanagh was injured in a challenge and was replaced by Patrick McEleney.
The game was a tense midfield battle in the first half, with both keepers virtual spectators. Rovers probably felt that they shaded proceedings in the opening period, with long shots from Finn the only real action of note. Karl Sheppard did break the Derry defensive line once, but having been forced wide, he opted to square the ball when the shot still looked on. Unfortunately there were no Rovers players up in support and the chance came to nothing.
Rovers have been dodged with the criticism that they have no cutting edge in the absence of Gary Twigg and they certainly had plenty of possession, but without the threat of the Scottish strikers, they are a different prospect. City’s own hotshots Patterson and Rafter were starved of possession up front, relying on scraps of possession that came their way.
The second half was a more exciting affair, as both sides were committed to trying to secure all three points. City hit the front six minutes after the break. Patrick swung a deep ball into the box where it was met by Barry McNamee. It looked to many that the midfielder was trying to direct the ball back across the box but it looped in over the top of a helpless Barry Murphy. Three goals in three games from the Donegal youngster who continues to impress, wherever he plays.
Rovers picked up a couple of yellow as the frustration of being behind in a game they had shaded began to show. McCabe introduced from the bench was a real threat for the visitors and he began to pose all sorts of problems for Thomas Crawley at full back for the home side. The visitors were on top possession wise and really starting to turn the screw, with the Candystripes reduced to rare forays into the Hoops half. Patterson should have done better on the counter but he screwed a shot wide from a tight angles.
However City doubled their advantage when Ryan McBride rose highest and out muscled Foran to head home from a McNamee free kick and send the home crowd into raptures. Indeed the generaly consensus was that it was the best atmosphere since Rovers came to town two years ago and were sent home with a 1-0 defeat, the goal coming from Lafferty on that occasions.
Credit to the visitors who despite the mountain facing them, never gave in and threw everything at Derry in the last ten minutes. Sheppard and Chambers both had shots, and McBride cleared another effort off the line. Indeed McBride was involved in a mammoth scramble in the box when three times he put head or body on the ball to clear the danger. Rovers got the lifeline that their play deserved when Rice latched onto a half cleared corner to rifle home low from twenty five yards. Rovers send keeper Murphy up for a corner in injury time but when the ball fell to him to opt for a snapshot when a more considered option may have been more effective.
However the referee’s whistle eventually came, seeing City to their sixth consecutive win and consigning the Hoops to their first defeat of the season. On this evidence Rovers will certainly be a force in the League but unless they finding goals, it will be as a side who may decide where the title goes, rather than main protagonists.
For City, this was a real battle and one of the major challenges faced so far this season and this games shows the progression from last season for this was surely a game that could have been drawn or lost this time last year. With major challenges ahead, the team continues to perform.