Derry City 2, Dundalk 2
DERRY City boss, Peter Hutton was ‘baffled’ by skipper, Cliff Byrne’s second half dismissal as his side were denied victory against league leaders Dundalk by a last gasp Ritchie Towell strike deep into second half stoppage time at Brandywell Stadium.
City bounced back from a Kurtis Byrne strike on 43 minutes with an equaliser from Barry McNamee less than 90 seconds later before Michael Duffy’s stunning 30 yard screamer gave the home lot a deserved lead in the second half.
However, the turning point in the game arrived on 70 minutes when Byrne was controversially shown a straight red card by referee, Robert Rogers after consulting with his assistant who appeared to spot an ‘off the ball’ clash between the Derry centre half and substitute Patrick Hoban.
Derry comfortably soaked up the pressure for the remaining 20 minutes until Towell fortuitously salvaged a share of the spoils for Dundalk with a deflected shot which sent Gerard Doherty the wrong way in the fifth minute of additional time.
It was a bitter blow for Hutton’s troops but despite the result, the Derry boss was delighted with what was arguably Derry’s best performance of the season.
“We’re gutted but we can take a lot of positives from it,” said Hutton. “To a man we were exceptional, the players really applied themselves well and worked extremely hard and for all our efforts I felt we deserved the three points.
“It would have been unfortunate had we gone in at the break a goal down and I thought Barry McNamee took his goal well. Second half I thought we did enough to win it and Michael Duffy’s fantastic strike was worthy to win any game but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
And Hutton was disappointed with the sending off of his captain.
“I know for a fact the referee didn’t see it,” he added. “How they decided to come to that decision after a few minutes was baffling to say the least.
But there’s lots of positives to take and that’s the standard the players have set for themselves now going forward and it’s important we carry that form on.”
The two week midseason break has evidently worked wonders for the ‘Candy Stripes’ as they more than matched the Lilywhites during an entertaining 90 minutes and were perhaps the better team until the sending off.
Derry came closest to opening the scoring on nine minutes when McNamee drove the ball dangerously across the face of goal with Mark Timlin lurking at the back post but Dave Massey superbly intercepted to deny what would have been a certain goal.
And Massey was in the thick of the action at the other end when getting a powerful header to Darren Meenan’s cross from the right on 17 minutes but he somehow put his effort over the crossbar from 12 yards.
Rory Patterson had the ball in the back of the Lilywhites’ net 10 minutes later when he lobbed Peter Cherrie from a narrow angle with a delightful touch but the referee’s assistant ruled the effort out for offside.
The game sparked into life two minutes before the interval when Byrne, who was initially in an offside position, latched onto Barry Molloy’s flick on and slotted into the bottom corner to give Dundalk the lead.
Less than one minute after that breakthrough McNamee’s persistence paid dividends as he won possession on the edge of the Dundalk area and weaved his way through the defence before poking the ball beyond the reach of Cherrie and the teams went in at the break on level terms.
Dundalk emerged from the break with intent but it was Derry who took the lead with a quality 30 yard strike from Duffy which rattled the back of the Dundalk net on 51 minutes - a stunning strike from the winger!
Derry were reduced to 10 men on 70 minutes as skipper Byrne was sent off for an off the ball clash with substitute Patrick Hoban who was on the pitch for just two minutes. After consulting with his assistant, referee Rob Rogers flashed a straight red and the big Scot saw his last action of the night.
Dundalk were pressing and Byrne could probably have scored when he met Meenan’s cross on the half volley inside the area but he blasted over the crossbar with six minutes to go.
And as Dundalk went in search of the equaliser during five minutes additional time up stepped Towell whose shot was deflected into the net to the delight of the significant travelling support.
Derry City: G. Doherty; D. Jarvis, R. McBride, C. Byrne, A. Barry M. Timlin, B. Molloy, B. McNamee, P. McEleney (S. McEleney 76), M. Duffy; R. Patterson (Nathan Boyle 90); Subs Not Used - C. Gallagher,N. Boyle, J. Tracey, T. McNamee, C. Burke, R. Curran.
Dundalk: P. Cherrie; S. Gannon, B. Gartland, A. Boyle, D. Massey; D. Meenan, J. Mountney (P. Hoban 68), C. Shiels, (R. Higgins 74), R. Towell, D. Horgan (M. Griffin 56); K. Byrne; G. Sava, S. Kelly, C. O’Connor, G. Poynton.
Referee: Robert Rogers.