Derry City’s titles hopes were dealt a severe blow when they drew 1-1 with Bray Wanderers at the Brandywell on Friday evening.
If truth be told it was a game that Derry was largely expected to win. The bookies believed it too; they attempted to entice punters to have a flutter on Bray by offering odds as big as 11/1.
Derry perhaps did have grounds for complaint over some of the decisions made by referee Derek Tomney but few would argue that Candystripes were deserving of all three points.
Dean Zambra’s goal for the Seagulls in the first half may have been fortuitous but Derry failed to really get under the skin of Bray ‘keeper and former Derry player Darren Quigley.
Derry did find the back of the Bray net in the second half when substitute Emmett Friars fired an outstanding left foot drive past Quigley from 30 yards out.
Friday’s share of the spoils with Pat Devlin’s men means that Derry are now on 60 points; one behind Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers respectively. Michael O’Neill’s Shamrock Rovers also have a game in hand over the Foylesiders.
Derry City manager Stephen Kenny said that he was “disappointed” with the result and explained that Friday’s game was one that his team was desperate to win.
“We found Bray difficult to break down tonight,” said Kenny after the game
“We had a few chances and I think that we probably could have had a penalty. The concession of the goal early proved costly I think.”
He added: “I think Bray were set-up in a specific way. Their 4-1-4-1 formation was difficult to break down.”
Kenny reaffirmed his frustration with the final result and said that the preservation of their unbeaten stretch was of little consolation. Despite his bitter disappointment Kenny refused to be drawn on how costly the result could be to his team’s title credentials and explained that they important games coming up against Dundalk FC, Shamrock Rovers and Galway United respectively.
“I am disappointed to be honest,” said Kenny. “The players have been enjoying an 18 match unbeaten run and they’re doing well and for a lot of them it’s their first season in this league.
“But we really desired the three points tonight. Although it’s still some consolation that we are still unbeaten it still doesn’t stop us from feeling bitterly disappointed that we did not get three points tonight.
“It’s always difficult to chase the game and I think over the last 18 matches this team has shown they have the capacity to come back into a game but like I said we really wanted to win tonight so you can imagine how we are all feeling.
“We had a few chances to win the game towards the end but it just wouldn’t happen.
“We didn’t lose the game which is important and we’ve three very important games coming up so we have to get ready for them.”
A marvellous move by Derry in the 23rd minute nearly saw Ruaidhri Higgins find the back of the net.
The network of passes started right at the back when Gerard Doherty stroked the ball to left-back Daniel Lafferty. Lafferty found Gareth McGlynn, who touched the ball off into the path of Stephen McLaughlin on the left. McGlynn’s pass was perfect and McLaughlin had plenty of space and time before sweeping his pass across the face of goal. Higgins seized the opportunity but his effort from outside the Bray box went wide.
Kevin Deery snatched at a loose ball after decent link up play between Lafferty and Eamon Zayed in the 26th minute. Despite the impressive preamble the captain’s 30 yard shot was off target.
Derry central defender Stewart Greacen tested the resolve of Darren Quigley when he smashed a free-kick along the surface in the 40th minute. Greacen’s shot abounded in power but was hit straight at Quigley.
Bray took the lead when Dean Zambra headed the ball past Gerard Doherty in the 41st minute.
After winning a corner-kick for the Seagulls, captain Gary Dempsey swung a corner towards the near post. A communication breakdown ensued between defenders and goalkeeper Gerard Doherty and Dean Zambra nipped in at the front post to glance the ball past the Creggan man.
Doherty flapped at the ball in earnest but the referee’s assistant instantly signalled that the ball had crossed the line.
Pat Devlin’s team had a fantastic chance to double their lead after the restart in the 52nd minute.
Gary Dempsey floated a free-kick from the right towards the back post and team mate Conor Murphy couldn’t believe his luck as the ball landed at his feet. Murphy was slow to react and Doherty gathered the ball.
Derry had two goal scoring chances within the space of 40 seconds in the 57th minute.
A Kevin Deery corner found Stewart Greacen at the back post whose header across goal was met by Lafferty. The left back reacted well but his header deflected of the head of a Bray player and went out for a corner.
Deery, again, took the corner and this time it landed at the feet of Lafferty at the back post. Lafferty slotted the ball back across the face of goal and with time to spare Patrick McEleney fired the ball over the crossbar from eight yards out.
The game was in the doldrums midway through the second half when Derry equalised through an amazing 30 yard strike from Emmett Friars.
Derry won a corner on the Lone Moore Road side of the pitch. Ruairi Harkin spotted Friars stealing ground unnoticed and gently threw the ball to him over the head of Danny O’Connor. The Derry defender was in acres of space and as a result he picked his spot and with a left foot drive he blasted the ball to the left of Quigley.
Derry had an opportunity to put their head in front in the 76th minute when Eamon Zayed found himself in possession inside the Bray area. To be fair to Zayed it was a tight angle and Quigley reacted well and blocked with his legs.
Derry went in search of a winning goal and it nearly arrived in the 81st minute when Kevin Deery’s corner found Stephen McLaughlin at the back post. The Donegal midfielder went for precision instead and the ball went over the bar.
Next up for Derry City is Dundalk FC at Oriel Park on Saturday October 8, kick-off 8.00p.m.
DERRY CITY: Gerard Doherty; Eddie McCallion (Ruairi Harkin 10 mins), Daniel Lafferty, Stewart Greacen, Ryan McBride (Emmett Friars 66 mins); Ruaidhri Higgins, Kevin Deery, Stephen McLaughlin, Gareth McGlynn; Patrick McEleney (Mark Farren 64 mins), Eamon Zayed.
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry; David McDaid; Owen Morrison; James Henry.
BRAY WANDERERS: Darren Quigley; Daire Doyle, Dane Massey, Adam Mitchell, Chris Shields; Gary Dempsey, John Mulroy (Gary Shaw 85 mins), Danny O’Connor, Conor Murphy (Kieran Waters 85 mins); Dean Zambra, Jake Kelly (Kevin Knight 90 mins).
Subs not used: Brian Kane; David Webster; Graham Kelly; Danny McGuinness.
REFEREE: Mr. Derek Tomney (Dublin).