Derry’s city centre was buzzing with people celebrating Culture Night on Friday evening but not far away at the Brandywell the Candy Stripes’ performance against U.C.D. was anything but.
Out of the 12 league games Derry City have lost this season, seven of them have been at the Brandywell. That defeat number 12 came at the hands of U.C.D. when Martin Russell’s team beat Derry 2-1.
The Candy Stripes are seventh in the Airtricity Premier Division and Friday’s result did the club’s ambitions of qualifying for next season’s Setanta Sports Cup no favours. Declan Devine’s men have to secure a fifth place finish to qualify for the competition.
Friday’s game was one that would have seen the talent of Stephen McLaughlin and Simon Madden flourish but with McLaughlin injured and Madden suspended manager Declan Devine opted to play captain Barry Molloy at right-back in place of Madden and Marc Brolly on the left wing in place of McLaughlin.
Goals from Barry McCabe and David McMillan gave U.C.D. a two goal lead and despite Kevin Deery scoring with a header from a corner, Derry City could not find a way back and the Students ran out worthy winners.
Derry failed to settle into the game in the first half.
U.C.D. made better use of possession albeit their task was made easier by virtue of the fact that they played with 10 men behind the ball for large periods of the game.
The opening chance of the came fell to U.C.D. in the third minute when sloppy defending by Shane McEleney allowed David McMillan a shot on goal.
McEleney attempted to pass the ball back to Doherty but played it into the path of McMillan instead - to McEleney’s relief, the Students’ striker fired wide.
Ciaran Nangle attempted to find a way past City’s keeper Gerard Doherty in the fourth minute but the long range shot was saved.
Derry’s best chance of an opener came in the fifth minute when left-winger Marc Brolly raced clear of the U.C.D. defence and slotted a pass across the face of goal. It was inch perfect for forward McDaid who unfortunately smashed the ball over the crossbar.
Declan Devine’s men were starting to ride their luck and U.C.D. grew in confidence with every mistake they made.
Martin Russell’s men found space on the right but a last-ditch challenge by Dermot McCaffrey prevented what would have been an almost certain goal when he took the ball off the toe of Dean Clarke.
As the clock approached the half hour mark U.C.D. found themselves dominating - they enjoyed the majority of possession, had more shots on goal and Russell’s game plan appeared to be working.
Barry Molloy went close to testing Gerald Barron in the 27th minute when he burst into the U.C.D. area but unfortunately, he fired over the crossbar.
U.C.D. deservedly took the lead in the 37th minute when Barry McCabe punished Derry for what can only be described as poor defending.
Midfielder Paul O’Connor played a perfectly weighted pass through the middle of the homedefence in front of McCabe, who looked to be just onside. He sprinted clear of the Derry back four to coolly slot the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
If anyone thought that McCabe’s goal was a one-off then they were well and truly proved wrong because U.C.D. doubled their lead just 21 seconds into the second half.
Again, Derry’s undoing was their insistence on the back four playing so high up the park. Paul O’Connor cut the defence to shreds once again with the most of exquisite of passes to the right. Striker David McMillan provided the finish to a fine move, racing into the box and firing the ball past Doherty.
O’Connor certainly made the goal but nothing should be taken away from McMillan, for his execution was top class.
Russell’s men almost increased their lead to three goals in the 50th minute when Daniel Ledwith ducked and dived his way past Dermot McCaffrey to fire a shot in on goal. Thankfully for Derry, Doherty did well to react and denied Ledwith what would have been an excellent goal.
The Candy Stripes didn’t heed the wake-up call and U.C.D. had another great chance in the 51st minute. McMillan was allowed to go unchallenged inside the box and head towards goal; fortunately for Derry his effort went over the bar.
Derry did hit back with a goal of their own when second half substitute Kevin Deery found the back of the net in the 52nd minute.
Dermot McCaffrey took the corner from the Foyle side of the pitch and floated it to the back post. Deery had plenty of time to power his header through a thicket of legs and bodies and into the net.
Deery didn’t waste time celebrating; he took the ball, ran to the half way line and prepared for the restart. Finally there was a bit of urgency and Derry were in the hunt for an equaliser.
Michael Duffy replaced Marc Brolly in the 73rd minute and two minutes later the young substitute almost scored.
Dermott McCaffrey completely mishit a cross towards the edge of the U.C.D. area. Duffy’s first touch was fantastic and as he edged his way into the area he let loose with a powerful drive but sadly for the youngster his effort went wide.
David McDaid tried to find a way through the U.C.D. defence in the 82nd minute but was charged down on the edge of the area. The loose ball fell to Conor Murphy who unleashed a powerful drive which travelled inches over the crossbar.
Derry’s search for an equaliser was showing signs of desperation when central defender Stewart Greacen joined David McDaid and Mark Farren up front for the last five minutes. And the move went so close to paying off right at the death.
94 minutes were showing on the clock when Dermot McCaffrey slotted the ball to McNamee and the pacey midfielder floated an excellent pass into the U.C.D. area to an unmarked Greacen at the front post. But despite the defender’s best effort with his left foot he failed to guide the ball past Barron.
U.C.D. held on for the win and if truth be told they deserved all three points on offer.
Next up for Derry City are league leaders Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds next Saturday night; kick-off 7.45pm.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Dermot McCaffrey, Barry Molloy, Shane McEleney, Stewart Greacen; Barry McNamee, Ruaidhri Higgins (Kevin Deery ht), Marc Brolly, Owen Morrison (Conor Murphy 52 mins); David McDaid, Mark Farren.
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry; Ryan Curran; Michael Barr; Caoimhin Bonner.
U.C.D.: Gerald Barron; Ciaran Nangle, David O’Connor, Michael Leahy, Paul O’Connor; Robert Benson (James Kavanagh 88 mins), Hugh Douglas, Daniel Ledwith, Barry McCabe; Dean Clarke (Graham Rusk 88 mins), David McMillan (Chris Mulhall 84 mins).
Subs not used: Mark McGinley; Gary Burke; Thomas Boyle, Chris Lyons.
REFEREE: Mr. David McKeon (Dublin).