SLIGO Rovers may have strengthened their title winning credentials following yet another defeat of Derry on Friday night, but the “Candy Stripes” have little cause for complaint.
Having been awarded a 55th minute penalty in controversial circumstances by the referee’s assistant, Rory Patterson’s spotkick was superbly saved by Sligo custodian, Gary Rogers and one developed a gut feeling that this may yet turnout to be another bitter disappointment on home turf.
And while Declan Devine’s side certainly created enough scoring chances to win this high profile fixture, Rogers certainly earned his wages having produced a plethora of top drawer stops on the night.
Ian Baraclough’s men made their intentions known from the outset when, with the wind at their backs, they attempted to gain an early breakthrough when playing down the Brandywell hill.
But while Derry took time to match that workrate, the home lot looked composed and committed having created a number of quality opportunities to break the deadlock themselves.
Sligo attempted to strike the opening blow when central midfielder, David Cawley, forced Gerard Doherty into a save after just six minutes, the Derry keeper parrying the ball wide of his goal.
But then the home side began to compete with Patrick McEleney sending a wind-assisted shot over the Sligo crossbar from long range.
Patterson then flashed a free-kick agonisingly wide of the target while Davy McDaid also dragged a shot to the wrong side of the upright as Derry began to force their way forward.
However, it was Sligo who squandered the best scoring chance of the opening period in the 19th minute.
The lively Joseph Ndo threaded a low free-kick through the Derry defence into the path of David McMillan who had worked himself into space, but Sligo’s lone striker guided his shot agonisingly wide of the target as Doherty advanced from his goal-line.
Ten minutes after the change of ends, the referee’s assistant awarded Derry a controversial penalty in the 55th minute, Gavin Peers adjudged to have impeded Patterson when inside the area.
And as the large attendance held its breath in the stands, Rogers rose to the challenge when making a superb save, pushing Patterson’s strike wide of his post when diving low to his left – Derry’s second penalty miss in consecutive matches!
The visiting keeper then produced another magnificent stop to deny Patterson minutes later following a corner, diverting the shot over his crossbar.
Derry continued to huff and puff in the front-line and on the hour the “Candy Stripes” really should have broken the deadlock.
A swift counter-attack involving Paddy Kavanagh and Davy McDaid saw the latter balloon the ball over the bar from 12 yards when he really should have done better.
Sligo, however, stunned the big Brandywell crowd in the 65th minute when netting the opening goal.
Having worked the ball forward with a series of precise, short passes, Cawley was played in and his thunderous angled shot crashed into the corner of the Derry net with Doherty defeated.
And Sligo ended the match as a contest in the 82nd minute when the home defence failed to deal with a high ball.
Lively substitute and top striker, Danny North, took advantage of the lapse when he raced through to gain possession and he gleefully drove the ball past Doherty in the subsequent one-on-one situation.
Derry substitute, Sean Houston, reduced the deficit with a superb strike in the 88th minute but it was merely a case of too little too late for the home side despite the offering of five minutes of additional time.
DERRY CITY – Doherty; Madden, McBride (Houston, 79), S. McEleney, Osborne; Molloy, Higgins; Kavanagh (Duffy, 85), McDaid, P. McEleney (Griffin, 90); Patterson.
Subs not used: Rafter, Curran, McNamee and Ferry.
SLIGO ROVERS – Rogers; Keane, Peers, E. McMillan, Davoren (Henderson, 78); Djilali, Conneelly, Ndo, Cawley, Cretaro; D. McMillan (North, 67).
Subs. not used: Elding, Millien, Lynch, Martin and Kelly.
REFEREE – Mr. A. Buttimer (Limerick).