POACHER supreme, David McDaid, pounced to give Derry City a major advantage in this Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final when plundering a vital equalising goal against Linfield at Windsor Park last night.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Photograph: Brian Little (Presseye)
McDaid, who has played second fiddle for so long, saved his best until the 85th minute when his thunderous volley from 12 yards diverted Stephen McLaughlin’s header high into the ‘Blues’ net giving keeper, Alan Blayney absolutely no chance.
That goal certainly brought the attendance to life after what has been a pretty dismal game but, try telling that to the 500 “Candy Striped” supporters who made the trip to the South Belfast venue.
This tie, therefore, will now be decided at Brandywell Stadium this day fortnight, March 20th, with the prize of reaching the last four at stake.
While the last five minutes certainly brought satisfaction for the travelling supporters, many of them would have gladly taken a 1-0 defeat prior to McDaid exhibiting his predatory instincts - that basically tells you how poor this game was.
Given that McDaid was credited with Derry’s only strike on goal up to that point - Patrick McEleney’s free-kick touch wide by Blayney in the 90th minute - it was a particularly poor performance.
Clearly struggling in front of goal - new striker, Rory Patterson deemed ineligible for this particular game - one began to wonder where Derry would actually score from.
Stephen McLaughlin who netted the only goal against Bohemians on Friday night was pushed forward to join McDaid in spearheading the Derry attack but, if the truth be told, that partnership failed to click with Linfield in total control at the back.
And while Patrick McEleney and McDaid failed to score with early half chances, it was the home side who deservedly broke the deadlock in the 12th minute.
Even that effort was considered fortuitous. A Michael Carvill corner was beaten out to the edge of the Derry penalty area and when Billy Joe Burns launched a shot at the target, Peter Thompson stretched out a leg and the ball somehow made it’s way to the back of the net.
The visitors clearly moved up a gear following the change of ends and while they failed to create any notable clear-cut chances, one got the feeling that Linfield appeared to be tiring and, indeed, taking a step back in an effort to protect their slender advantage.
Substitute, Mark Farren, could have burst to the fore shortly after his introduction but he failed to control Molloy’s pass and a superb opportunity had been spurned.
But Derry keeper, Gerard Doherty, who have very little to do on the night other than pick the ball out of his net in the 12th minute, pulled of a significant save in the 76th minute.
Facing Thompson in a one-on-one situation, the Creggan man exhibited great courage when diving forcefully at the striker’s feet to claim possession and, without doubt, keep his side in this tie.
While Derry struggled to create, one can take nothing away from the tenacious Barry Molloy who covered acres of space and, of course, picked up the obligatory yellow card. The midfield general certainly played a captain’s role on the night in the absence of the injured Kevin Deery.
Having protected his back four with timely tackles not to mention a few bruising challenges which his opposite number and Linfield captain, Michael Gault, it was fitting that Molloy was also involved in the phase of play which led to Derry’s equaliser.
It was his deft chip to McLaughlin which set McDaid up for that fabulous strike and, no doubt, guarantee a capacity attendance at the Lone Moor Road venue on March 20th for the return leg.
Linfield - Blayney, Douglas, Gault, Watson, Curran, Lowry, Carvill (Fordyce, 71), Burns, Mulgrew, Thompson, Garrett.
Derry City - Doherty; Madden, S. McEleney, Greacen, McCaffrey; P. McEleney, Molloy, Higgins, Crossan (Farren, 59); McLaughlin, McDaid.
Referee - Mr. R. Crangle (Bangor).