DERRY CITY’s battling draw against Longford Town at the City Calling Stadium on Saturday night was yet another display of this team’s powers of recovery.
Kenny Shiels’ troops have developed an uncanny knack of grinding out results and five of Derry’s 17 points total have been won after coming from behind.
City fought back from a goal down to defeat Galway 2-1 at Brandywell; clawed their way back from an early deficit against Dundalk to draw 1-1 in Oriel Park, not to mention the last minute winner in Wexford.
And Saturday’s wonder strike from Patrick McClean - the club’s eighth different goalscorer in eight games - earned another hard fought point against a Longford side determined to get points on the board after a disastrous start.
That never-say-die spirit and tenacity has ensured City remain in second place, just two points behind leaders Dundalk who stole a march on their nearest challengers with a slender win in Sligo on Friday.
And, even when the club’s two stand-out performers, Barry McNamee and Rory Patterson, had an off night by their high standards, the club still had the quality to dig out a result.
Whether Derry City are imposters, pretenders, or bang on course for a title tilt, the club’s battling draw in the midlands encapsulated the work ethic and character they’ve shown since that opening day defeat to Finn Harps.
Just when everything seemed to be going against the ‘Candy Stripes’ at the City Calling Stadium, up stepped a 19 year-old substitute to claw back a 1-0 deficit and ensure the continuation of the team’s momentum.
Longford had stunned the visitors when David O’Sullivan towered over the injured Aaron Barry to head the Midlanders into a 26 minute lead from a corner kick.
Patterson won and then missed a penalty on 34 minutes before Barry hobbled off after aggravating his troublesome hip injury.
I don’t think the club has won a Premier League game here in 10 years. I think it was 2006 when the club last won here in the Premier League. So we’ve come away with something.Kenny Shiels
Dean Jarvis struck the underside of the crossbar after a sublime one-two with Ronan Curtis before Harry Monaghan’s night was cut short through injury. At that stage, Shiels would have been forgiven for thinking his side’s six game unbeaten run was going to come to an abrupt end at the hands of the league’s bottom club.
But out of something bad came something good. Barry’s injury gave sub Patrick McClean an opportunity and he grasped it in spectacular fashion.
The Creggan man’s ferocious 35 yard screamer came like a bolt from the blue to break the resolve of a dogged Longford defence under siege for 28 minutes of the second half - a goal worthy of winning any game; a contender for goal of the season, perhaps.
Both teams had chances late on but it ended in a draw which was enough to lift Longford off the bottom of the table, jumping two places. While Derry lost ground on the leaders, they remain in second spot, having stretched their unbeaten run to seven.
Derry could and perhaps should have come away with more given their gilt-edged chances and, yet, they could so easily have left Longford with nothing. Shiels, therefore, felt a draw was a fair reflection of the match.
“I’ve been involved in games when everything’s going against you and you lose them but the fact we stayed in it and didn’t lose, you have to give the boys credit for that,” he said.
“It was just one of those nights and we didn’t get the three points we came for. However, we can’t complain,” he added. “We came down here and got a point but it could have been zero. We could have be beaten but overall I think we deserved at least a point. I think that’s a fair reflection on it.
“I don’t think the club has won a Premier League game here in 10 years. I think it was 2006 when the club last won here in the Premier League. So we’ve come away with something.”
With games coming thick and fast against Sligo Rovers in the EA Sports Cup tonight and in the league against Bohemians on Friday night, Shiels will be cursing his luck after untimely injuries to Barry and Monaghan who join Gareth McGlynn in the treatment room. But, with replacements of the quality of McClean eager to step up and replace those on the injured list, Shiels shouldn’t be overly concerned.
“I was disappointed with the injuries but there’s nothing much you can do about that. That’s Aaron Barry, Harry Monaghan and Gareth McGlynn now, so they’re mounting up. But we brought on a 19 year-old who scores from 35 yards with a fantastic strike. It got us back in the game and I thought we could go on and win it.”
McClean’s screamer cancelled out Longford Town striker David O’Sullivan’s 26 minute close range header.
Derry could have taken the lead two minutes before that when Patterson’s low drive was put behind superbly by the out-stretched hand of Paul Skinner. And they really should have been back on level terms before McClean’s second half strike but for Patterson’s missed penalty while the woodwork prevented Jarvis from scoring his first of the season. Longford sat deep and invited Derry on, clearly having learned from that one-sided 4-0 loss to Dundalk the week previous, and it needed that magical long range strike from McClean to break them down. Ward then tested the reactions of Skinner with a curling freekick but the Longford keeper punched the ball behind. There was a huge shout for a penalty from the Longford support with 10 minutes to go as Philip Gannon sent O’Sullivan through on goal and the striker went down easily under a shoulder challenge from Ryan McBride. The referee waved play on.
Peter McGlynn blasted recklessly over the Derry bar on 84 minutes when the ball fell kindly to him after a scramble in the visitors’ area.
But McNamee had the best chance to clinch victory in the final minute when he got on to the end of Patterson’s pass only to scuff his shot into the hands of Skinner.
Longford Town: P. Skinner; N. Havorty, M. Rossiter, P. Flynn, T. Hofman; D. Cowan (L. Duffy 68), P. McGlynn, K. O’Connor (P. Gannon 71), J. McKeown; M. Hughes; D. O’Sullivan; Subs Not Used - I. Molloy, J. Mulhall, K. Dillon, J. O’Hanlon, K. Simon.
Derry City: G. Doherty; N. Vemmelund, R. McBride, A. Barry (P. McClean 37), D. Jarvis; K. Ward (N. Boyle 83), H. Monaghan (C. McCormack 51), A. McEneff, R. Curtis; B. McNamee; R. Patterson; Subs Not Used - S. Patton, R. Doherty, G. McFadden, J. Allen.
Referee - Sean Grant.