SLIGO ROVERS 2, DERRY CITY 2
RYAN McBRIDE netted a superb first half brace for Derry City against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds but it wasn’t enough to take the ‘Candy Stripes’ into the mid-season break with a much need victory.
In an entertaining clash from the start, it was the home lot who struck first with a spectacular strike from John Russell on 16 minutes but McBride headed in the equaliser before sending a close range volley into the net to complete a quickfire first half turnaround.
There were chances galore in the second half and when Eric Odhiambo was given his marching orders for a rash challenge on Cliff Byrne, the tide seemed to be turning in favour of the visitors.
The English man, who was one of just three substitute named by Ian Baraclough, was only on the pitch for five minutes before referee, Tomas Connelly flashed a straight red card.
It was an action packed encounter which really could have gone either way right up until the dying embers of the match but Derry will be disappointed not to secure a third win under Peter Hutton given their numerical advantage.
For the small band of ‘Candy Stripes’ supporters who opted to miss Holland’s remarkable 5-1 victory over Spain in the World Cup and make the trip to the Showgrounds, they certainly weren’t disappointed with four excellent goals to admire up close at the North West venue.
Derry City skipper, Cliff Byrne returned to the starting line-up to attempt to shore up the defence which leaked five goals in their last league outing against St Patrick’s Athletic.
With J.P. McGovern released in midweek, Danny Ventre took over the right back duties while Mark Timlin earned his second start.
For Sligo, Baraclough made three changes to the team defeated by Dundalk with David Cawley returning from suspension while Rafaele Cretaro and Seamus Connelly also made the starting XI.
Sligo were enjoying the bulk of possession in the opening stages and put Derry under sustained pressure with a succession of corner kicks.
And the home side came close to opening the scoring when Danny Ledwith’s inviting corner kick almost caught out Gerard Doherty as it bounced awkwardly in front of the goalline but the alert Barry Molloy managed to clear the danger.
Patrick McEleney’s low strike from distance was then saved comfortably as the game flowed from end to end.
And the Bit O’Red broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion on 16 minutes as Russell picked up a loose ball in midfield and sent his stunning shot from 30 yards into the top corner, giving Doherty no chance. It was a quality strike and Russell’s fourth goal of the season.
The visitors got back on level terms just four minutes later as they stunned Sligo when McBride’s looping header under pressure from David McMillan nestled into the back of the net.
It was a brave header from McBride who picked up a knock in the process and Sligo were shell-shocked.
The bustling Derry centre half struck again on 28 minutes when a ball from McEleney had Rogers flapping and McBride volleyed into the net with his left foot from five yards.
City could only hold onto their slender advantage for just six minutes as Ledwith equalised with a composed finish.
The Sligo left back found himself in acres of space, cut inside onto his right foot and eased past the challenge of Byrne before blasting his shot past Doherty with a clinical finish.
In the second half Derry pressed forward and Byrne got his head onto McEleney’s free kick on 65 minutes but sent his effort wide of the target,
And then came that moment of madness from substitute Odhiambo as he was sent for an early shower after what appeared a dangerous challenge and the referee made no hesitation in brandishing the red card.
Derry tried to go on and win the game in the final 20 minutes and had their chances.
Rory Patterson took the ball excellently on his chest and volleyed it first time towards goal but Rogers was equal to it as he produced a superb save with eight minutes to go.
Barry McNamee then made a clever run into box and when substitute Nathan Boyle picked him out brilliantly, the midfielder’s header at the back post went into side netting as he missed a glorious chance to win the game in the 90th minute.
Sligo also had a chance to win it when Sean Maguire found Russell who peeled away from McBride but his shot went inches past the far post of Doherty’s goal in a dramatic end to the game.
The match could really have gone either way in the final stages but both teams would surely be content with a point apiece going into the two week break.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Seamus Conneely, Evan McMillan, Kalen Spillane, Danny Ledwith; Rafael Cretaro, Paul O’Conor (Eric Odhiambo 66mins) David Cawley, Ross Gaynor; John Russell, Danny North (Sean Maguire 84mins); Subs Not Used - Richard Brush.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Danny Ventre,Ryan McBride, Cliff Byrne, Aaron Barry; Mark Timlin (Ryan Curran 69mins), Barry Molloy, Barry McNamee, Michael Duffy; Patrick McEleney, Rory Patterson (Nathan Boyle 86mins),; Subs Not Used - Ciaran Gallagher, Dean Jarvis, Shane McEleney,Tony McNamee, Ryan Curran.
Referee - Tomas Connelly (Dublin).