THE chorus of boos which greeted the final whistle at the Brandywell told its own story on Friday night, Derry City struggling to find their form against Leinster Senior League junior side, Bluebell United.
And it was not the response anticipated by the few hundred members of the Faithful who supported the “Candy Stripes” continued defence of the trophy on home turf.
Indeed, given the enormity of their task, the junior side actually conceded home advantage due to a very small level of support on the south side of Dublin. All those who travelled to Foyleside, booked for the night, the match result clearly not the priority.
But those sentiments changed dramatically as the clocked ticked down, Bluebell remaining well in this tie and, indeed, had Lady Luck been on their side they could so easily have nicked this during the final 15 minutes.
So full credit to Andy Noonan’s warriors, the manager watching some of his players collapse with cramp during the latter stages as their domestic season is just one match old!
Deservedly securing a replay – also on Foyleside this Tuesday night – Bluebell will now know exactly what they are up against and, indeed, will reflect back on their shock in Athlone when defeating the Midlands in the last round after two games.
For Declan Devine and his troops, concern and worry have spread through the ranks after what proved to be a particularly disjointed and frustrating display.
Bluebell keeper, Andy McNulty, was never overly troubled, Rory Patterson free-kicks appearing to be the only danger to his goal on the night.
So Derry’s poor form at the Brandywell continued last night, one getting the clear impression that complacency had infiltrated the ranks as they struggled to put the junior side to the sword.
A particularly poor opening period saw Bluebell give as good as they got, in fact, they probably created the best scoring chance in the 27th minute.
Lively front-man, Shane Stritch, managed to charge down Barry Molloy’s attempted pass yet, despite finding himself in a one-on-one situation with keeper, Gerard Doherty, the striker appeared to lose his footing and a glorious scoring chance was lost.
Derry’s David McDaid forced McNulty into a low save but the Bluebell keeper really played his part when diverting the first of Patterson’s free-kicks over his crossbar in the 41st minute.
And McDaid also went close again with a headed effort in the 45th minute following Simon Madden’s cross from the right as the home side continued to huff and puff.
Patterson was denied a penalty following the change of ends after a tackle by centre-half, Peter Sherlock, but referee Paul McLaughlin dismissed the Derry City appeals.
And having silenced the small home attendance, Bluebell refused to be intimidated with dangerous shots from Mark Rooney and Stritch keeping Doherty on his toes.
At the other end. McNulty did well to block another powerful free from Patterson as the home crowd began to get restless.
But Derry’s best chance of the match fell to Patterson in the 71st minute when first half substitute, Mark Griffin, floated in the perfect cross but the striker’s close range header failed to hit the target and Bluebell breathed a sigh of relief.
And United substitute, Sean Stewart, could so easily have nicked it for his side when he broke free in the 84th minute but he failed to control the ball and another scoring chance was lost.
Then Dean Jarvis, who replaced Eoghan Osborne at half-time, could also have won it for the Candy Stripes as he weaved his way into the penalty area before keeper, McNulty, did well to slide out and smother the ball.
Another Patterson header went close again in the 88th minute while Michael Duffy also directed a shot wide as the game entered injury time with Derry disappointed, the positive to be taken from the game is that the “Candy Stripes” live to fight another day.
Derry City – 4-4-1-1- Doherty; S. Madden, B. Molloy, McEleney, Osborne (Jarvis, h/t); Kavanagh (Duffy, 77), McNamee, Higgins, Houston (Griffin, 29); McDaid, Patterson. Subs not used: Rafter, Curran, Foy and Ferry.
Bluebell United – 4-4-2 - McNulty; Rooney, A. Cleary, Sherlock, Keeler; T. Molloy, Douglas (Collins, 58), J. Cleary (, G. Madden; Stritch (Stewart, 65), Griffiths. Subs. not used: Killeen, G. Rafter, Satelle and Fitzpatrick.
Referee – Mr. P. McLaughlin (Monaghan)
For further coverage and reaction to Friday night’s draw at the Brandywell, don’t miss Tuesday’s Journal.