PREMIER Division basement side, Athlone Town, certainly caught Derry City on the hop on Friday night, Roddy Collins’ former charges refusing to opt for a defensive strategy by parking the bus on the Brandywell pitch.
And, if the truth be told, Roddy Collins’ new troops made hard work of securing this win with keeper, Gerard Doherty, making a number of vital stops during the proceedings.
Mick Cooke adhered to the old adage that attack is the best form of defence and his interesting tactics caused something of shock.
But attack they did, roving forward at every opportunity forcing their hosts onto the back foot from the first whistle.
Indeed, Athlone even had the audacity to net a “goal” which had been ruled out for offside before the Midlanders silenced the Brandywell Faithful when deservedly breaking the deadlock after just 14 minutes.
Having dominated the early scoring chances, livewire striker, Philly Gorman, made it clear that the Derry defence would not be granted an easy evening.
And while his header had been adjudged to have been offside during the opening minutes, Athlone refused to feel sorry for themselves and rolled up their sleeves anticipating a battle.
That said, Derry’s No. 1 hitman, Rory Patterson, really should have opened his account for the season in the ninth minute following a long ball forward.
Fellow frontman, Enda Curran, controlled the high ball, leaving it perfectly placed for Patterson but the Strabane man swept it wide of the target when he really should have done better.
Making matters worse for Derry was the fact that Athlone continued to force the issue with Kealan Dillon having a shot crash off the butt of the upright with keeper, Doherty, beaten before the visitors then stunned the attendance.
Derry left-back, Dean Jarvis lost possession to Dillon when the defender really should have cleared his lines and when the ball was fed into Graham Rush he set up the better placed James O’Brien who simply passed the ball into the home net!
That goal served to wake Derry up from their slumber and when Jon-Paul McGovern’s header had been clear, Patterson’s subsequent powerful drive was also blocked down as Athlone defenders battled as if their lives depended on it.
Derry finally secured their just desserts in the 21st minute when Enda Curran started and finished a move having initially been sent scampering clear on the right flank by Michael Duffy.
His cross-field ball was adjudged to have been too heavy for Patterson, but when it was eventually turned back into the danger area by Duffy, Curran got the faintest of headers to divert the ball over the goal-line to restore equality.
Then, appearing to have got to grips with this affair, the “Candy Stripes” moved into the driving seat on the half hour.
Patrick McEleney played a probing ball forward and Patterson won a race for possession with Ahtlone keper, Craig Sexton.
The striker skilfully swivelled before turning the ball home in the empty net in one swift movement; it was a quality finish.
With the scoreline now at 2-1, Athlone continued to push on and while Graham Rush broke clear of his shackles into the danger area in the 35th minute, his low shot was blocked by the legs of the advancing Doherty who spared Derry’s blushes.
After the break both sides created early chances with Curran’s looping shot easily saved by Sexton while Doherty was also in action when gathering a low header from Gorman following a cross by Sean Byrne.
The Derry keeper was called into action again to deny Gorman from close quarters before the home side will have felt they had finally killed the match off in the 60th minute.
Curran played Michael Duffy into the clear on the left and the teenager did superbly well when weaving his way forward before guiding the ball home with a solid left foot strike.
At that stage one felt Athlone’s resistance was waining, however, those thoughts were dismissed immediately as the Midlanders continued to power their way forward refusing to give up the ghost.
Shane McEleney, back operating at centre-half, due to the absence of Ryan McBride, was booked for retaliating to a tackle in the 74th minute on the edge of his penalty area.
Athlone substitute, Jason Mark, then successfully curled the ball home to reduce the deficit and ensure a nervous finish for the home lot.
Patrick McEleney crashed a superb effort off the Athlone upright.
And, to keep his side in front, Doherty also had to be on his toes at the other end to deny the dangerous Gorman as four minutes of additional time brought the game to an end.
No doubt Collins will opt to take comfort from his second win of the season with another positive coming in the form of last year’s top goalscorer, Patterson, havijng opened his account for the season.
DERRY CITY - 4-1-3-2 - Gerard Doherty; Roddy Collins jnr., Cliff Byrne, Shane McEleney, Dean Jarvis; Danny Ventre; J. P. McGovern (Mark Stewart, 68 mins.), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; Rory Patterson, Enda Curran.
Subs. not used - Cormac Burke, Raymond Foy, Mark Timlin, Ryan Curran, Aaron Barry and Ciaran Gallagher.
ATHLONE TOWN - 4-4-1-1- Craig Sexton; Stephen Quigley, Conor McMahon, Alan. Byrne, Sean Byrne; Kealan Dillon (Ian Sweeney, 64), Mark Hughes, James O’Brien (Barry Clancy, 59), Sean Brennan (Jason Marks, 64); Graham Rusk; Philly Gorman.
Subs. not used - Paul Skinner and Declan Brennan.
REFEREE -Rob Harvey