Derry City were unlucky to lose to league leaders Sligo Rovers at the Brandywell on Friday evening.
Ian Baraclough’s men took the lead when David Cawley struck from outside the Derry box in the 55th minute but the Candy Stripes equalised ten minutes later when David McDaid got on to the end of a majestic Conor Murphy pass to chip the ball over the head of Sligo ‘keeper Gary Rogers. The Bit O’Red snatched all three points in the 85th minute when Mark Quigley fired home from just outside the Derry six yard box.
It could be argued that Sligo were lucky to finish the game with 11 men on the pitch. Some of the visiting team’s tackling were over-exuberant and at times reckless but still referee Damian Hancock felt that yellow cards were more than suffice.
Declan Devine’s men played at a much faster tempo and they improved drastically in the second half.
Devine welcomed midfielder Barry Molloy back into the team and it was evident to see that Molloy had certainly been missed against Drogheda United two weeks ago.
There was a full debut for 19 year-old striker Conor Murphy who started up front on his own. Murphy set-up McDaid for Derry’s equaliser and showed tremendous battling quality and strength of character for a player so young.
Sligo Rovers went close to finding the target in the fourth minute when Ross Gaynor floated a corner into the Derry area. Gaynor’s cross was well placed and was met by the Mark Quigley who headed wide of the far post.
League leaders, Sligo, passed the ball well during the opening half hour and they constantly prodded and probed at Derry’s back four.
Sligo hit the post in the 27th minute when after crossing, the ball was cleared by Derry debutant Conor Murphy to the feet of Gaynor who snapped at the loose ball inside on the right. The snap-shot caught everyone by surprise but luckily for Derry it hit the bar and went out for a goal-kick.
Derry were desperate to register an attempt on goal and it showed in the 30th minute when Patrick McEleney tried to test Gary Rogers from 30 yards out. McEleney’s shot had plenty of power but absolutely zero direction and went about 15 feet over the crossbar.
Shane McEleney gave the ball away to David Cawley at the edge of the area in the 33rd minute. Fortunately for McEleney the ball was passed back to Danny Ventre who couldn’t find the target and shot wide.
Boco went close to testing Gerard Doherty’s reflexes in the 35th minute when his Dermot McCaffrey deflected shot went narrowly over the crossbar.
Owen Morrison played a fantastic ball to Conor Murphy in the 38th minute. Murphy controlled the ball well but was forced wide by Jason McGuinness. Murphy tired in earnest but his shot from inside the area on the right was charged down by the tall central defender.
Derry’s best chance of the half came in first half injury time when left back Dermot McCaffrey crossed into the Sligo Rovers area from the left. McCaffrey’s cross was excellent so much so that it found the head of Ruaidhri Higgins at the edge of the six yard box. Sadly, Higgins’s effort went narrowly over the crossbar.
Discipline levels threatened to boil over in the first half with both teams picking up two bookings.
Derry can count themselves unlucky for the challenges for which they were cautioned, both Owen Morrison and Conor Murphy not deserving of a yellow card. However, it could be argued that Sligo Rovers were lucky to finish the half with 11 men when Ramauld Boco and Danny Ventre careered into the back of Shane McEleney and Ruaidhri Higgins respectively.
Derry started the second half brightly and almost took the lead with a wonder strike from Owen Morrison in the 51st minute however Morrison’s 30 yard effort was easily gathered by Richard Brush.
Gerard Doherty made a top class save in the 52nd minute when he tipped Mark Quigley’s curling shot from outside the box over the crossbar.
Doherty’s save to deny Quigley was nothing short of excellent but what followed three minutes later was completely out of character for the Derry shot-stopper.
David Cawley collected ball 22 yards out and proceeded to fire a long range effort at Doherty’s goal. The Derry net-minder looked to have full charge of the situation but he appeared to lose his footing and as he scrambled to his right he struggled to reach the ball in time, tipped it onto the post and into the net.
Owen Morrison found Ryan McBride with a corner in the 62nd minute but despite going unchallenged McBride headed went wide.
If Gerard Doherty’s 55th minute strike was akin to an Ugly Sister then David McDaid’s 65th minute strike was Cinderella and Snow White put together.
McDaid’s goal was nothing short of top class and it was perhaps the best goal Derry had scored all season.
Debutant Murphy was improving with every touch of the ball but his pass to put McDaid in on goal is the kind of link up play that strikers dream of. Murphy was completely unmarked and spotted the run of McDaid through the middle. Murphy’s pass sat up perfectly for McDaid and despite the challenge of Gavin Peers, McDaid used his strength to his advantage and chipped the ball beautifully over the head of the out rushing Rogers.
Sligo regained the lead in the 85th minute when Mark Quigley fired past Gerard Doherty from close range.
After gaining possession from a Derry clearance Joseph Ndo took the ball to the touchline before wrong footing Dermot McCaffrey. Boco dragged the ball back and slid the ball across to the edge of the area to David Cawley who in turn found Quigley who blasted the ball into the net from eight yards.
It was a well taken goal by Sligo but it was gifted to them by poor Derry City defending. A poor clearance and sloppy possession led to Sligo gaining the ball and with Quigley only yards from goal it was sure to be a deciding strike.
Derry’s performance was streets ahead of their shambolic display against Drogheda United at the Brandywell two weeks ago but they finished the game with no points nonetheless.
The players and fans would be forgiven for thinking a draw with the league leaders would have been more reflective of the game and they would be right but it was Sligo’s night and Lady Luck turned out in their favour.
Next up for Derry City is Dundalk at Oriel Park next Friday evening, kick-off 7.45p.m.
DERRY CITY F.C. – Gerard Doherty; Eddie McCallion (Ryan Curran 89 mins), Dermot McCaffrey, Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride; Barry Molloy, Ruaidhri Higgins, Patrick McEleney, Owen Morrison; David McDaid, Conor Murphy (Marc Brolly 83 mins)
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry, Michael Barr, Barry McNamee, Tony McNamee, Michael Duffy.
SLIGO ROVERS F.C. – Gary Rogers; Alan Keane (Seamus Conneely 41 mins), Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre (John Dillon 85 mins), Ramauld Boco; Mark Quigley, Raffael Cretaro (Pascal Millieon 73 mins), Ross Gaynor, Joseph Ndo, Jason McGuinness, David Cawley.
Subs not used: Jarflaith Davoren, Jeff Henderson, Lee Lynch, Richard Brush.
REFEREE: Damian Hancock (Dublin).