DERRY City took almost an hour to wake up from their slumber before matching Bray Wanderers at the Brandywell last night.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The “Candy Stripes” then suddenly began to display their own passing and movement forcing Bray onto the back foot before dragging this game out of the fire.
It was a sensational turn around as Pat Devlin’s side had totally and utterly played Derry off the park with superb periods of play and were thoroughly deserving of their 1-0 half time lead, that goal netted in the 42nd minute.
With Bray opening with five players stretched across midfield, the home lot failed to contend with those tactics, Bray’s three central midfielders basically running the game.
But it was Derry’s failure to get to grips with these tactics which disappointed the small Monday night attendance.
If the truth be told, Bray could so easily have entered the break on a much healthier advantage with Derry keeper, Gerard Doherty and centre-half, Ryan McBride both making telling blocks.
It was a very poor first half display with Derry pointing to two just two chances, Stephen McLaughlin side-footing Simon Madden’s cross over the bar during the early stages and Rory Patterson’s tame strike taken off the line by Bray midfielder, Dean Zambra. Having totally dominated the ball, Bray cruised through a startled Derry defence almost at will and but for very poor finishing, they could have been out of sight by the break.
Adam Mitchell and Pierce Sweeney both wasted glorious opportunities while Dane Massey had a superb free-kick touched over the bar by the alert Doherty.
Bray continued to push forward and were finally rewarded three minutes from the break with the home defence at sixes and sevens.
Shane McEleney failed to adequately clear and while McBride was also caught out when the ball was played wide to Kieran Marty Waters, the winger finished with aplomb, the only surprise being that it took Bray so long to score!
After the break it was more of the same for Bray with Doherty having to be on his toes when getting down well to save a Sean Houston shot in the 50th minute.
Patterson went close to equalising when he attempted to lob the Bray keeper but the ball dropped agonisingly wide of the upright in the 52nd minute.
Slowly but surely, Derry fought their way back into the game and following hard work between Patterson and Patrick McEleney, they equalised in the 59th minute. McEleney sent over a deep cross which was met by McLaughlin who produced a superb header to net his third goal in three games.
Referee, Paul McLaughlin, actually stopped the game in the 64th minute when a defender appeared to fall down with a head injury. But once Adam Mitchell had been treated, the ref then opted to bounce the ball between two players and the alert McLaughlin prodded it forward, raced into the area and lashed the ball home to put his side into the driving seat in the 66th minute.
Derry, however, showed defensive naivety in the 72nd minute and that lapse cost them dearly. Having failed to mark at a short corner, when Zambra curled the ball to the back post there was Danny O’Connor in acres of space to gleefully headed home and level the game once again.
But back came the home side and when Patrick McEleney floated over a corner McBride challenged visiting keeper, Darren Quigley, getting a firm header on the ball to put the Candy Stripes back in control and give them a vital three points.
Derry City – 4-4-2 - Doherty; Madden, S. McEleney, McBride, McCaffrey; P. McEleney (McCallion, 83), Higgins, Molloy, McLaughlin; McDaid (Patterson, 53), Patterson (Farren, 94).
Bray Wanderers – 4-5-1 - Quigley; Webster (Bolger, 85), Mitchell (Kielty, 80), Sweeney, Zambra, O’Connor, Knight Kelly, 74); Mulroy.
Referee – P. McLaughlin (Monaghan).