Adam O'Reilly strike clinches precious win for Derry City against dogged Drogheda

Drogheda Utd 0Derry City 1
Derry City players celebrate Adam O'Reilly's first half opener against Drogheda at Weavers Park. Photographs by Kevin Moore.Derry City players celebrate Adam O'Reilly's first half opener against Drogheda at Weavers Park. Photographs by Kevin Moore.
Derry City players celebrate Adam O'Reilly's first half opener against Drogheda at Weavers Park. Photographs by Kevin Moore.

ADAM O'Reilly's first Derry City goal clinched a crucial victory against a dogged Drogheda at Weavers Park to move to within three points of leaders Bohemians.

Ruaidhri Higgins anticipated a difficult night and City were forced to dig deep to ensure a quick bounce back from Monday's defeat to Shamrock Rovers.

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Indeed, goalkeeper Maher produced two stunning saves at point blank range to deny Drogheda striker Frederick Draper late in the second half

The on-loan Lincoln striker also clipped the crossbar with a deft strike over the head of Maher in the first half.

Cameron McJannet and Shane McEleney produced immense individual performances to ensure victory during a nervous finale for the visitors, however, it was O'Reilly who was hailed the hero with a terrific finish 12 minutes into the match.

It hasn't been a happy haunting ground for Derry but it was a first league win at the venue since May 2021 and this was will have been particularly sweet for Higgins after a difficult start to the week.

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With Shamrock Rovers winning the Dublin derby, it closed the gap at the top setting it up nicely for Derry's trip to Dalymount next week and it’s six points from three difficult matches for the Candy Stripes to lift the mood at the Brandywell club.

Adam O'Reilly celebrates his first Derry City goal at Weavers Park.Adam O'Reilly celebrates his first Derry City goal at Weavers Park.
Adam O'Reilly celebrates his first Derry City goal at Weavers Park.

Higgins made three changes from that tepid display against Shamrock Rovers on Monday night. Ciaran Coll, Jordan McEneff and Cian Kavanagh all came in to replace Ronan Boyce, Ollie O'Neill and Jamie McGonigle respectively.

Will Patching was back in the squad for the first time since making a late substitute appearance against Cork City at Turner's Cross a fortnight ago as he recovered from a knee injury.

Higgins had to plan without striker Colm Whelan, who sustained that worrying knee injury last Monday, while Patrick McEleney, Cameron Dummigan, Ciaron Harkin and Mark Connolly all watched from the stands.

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It was a cagey opening with both teams wasting decent chances from well positioned free-kicks.

Derry began to get a foothold on the game and from a move on the right they broke the deadlock with 12 minutes on the clock.

The ball was played into McEneff on the edge of the penalty area and the ex-Arsenal man flicked it into the path of O'Reilly, with a deft touch with the outside of his right boot, who drilled it low past Colin McCabe.

Less than four minutes later McEneff did brilliantly to make space before delivering a fantastic ball into the penalty area where O'Reilly met it with a towering header but it went narrowly wide of the back post.

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Drogheda were forced into an early change on 21 minutes as scorer of the winning goal at Brandywell last month, Elicha Ahui was replaced by Luke Heeney.

The Boynesiders were enjoying a promising spell on the half hour as Derry were struggling to get control of the ball.

Brian Maher was called into action twice in the space of three minutes as he was forced to turn Dylan Grimes' strike over the bar.

Heeney then drove forward from the right and found the head of Ryan Brennan 12 yards from goal but his effort was saved comfortably by the Derry keeper.

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Drogheda came so close to equalising following a lovely move on the left wing on the stroke of half-time.

Dayle Rooney played it into the feet of Brennan who found the run of Frederick Draper in behind Shane McEleney and the striker clipped the ball over the head of Maher but bounced off top of the crossbar.

A lucky escape for Derry who managed to take a slender lead into the interval.

Duffy almost capitalised on a long clearance from Maher on 56 minutes as he timed his run to perfection. However, McCabe advanced off his goal to do enough to put him off as the winger's lobbed effort went harmlessly wide from just inside the penalty area.

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Cian Kavanagh's strike was deflected off the boot of Emmanuel Adegboyega and from the resultant corner the ball came to Sadou Diallo who volleyed from 25 yards and McCabe needed to parry it clear on 65 minutes.

Maher produced a sensational save to deny Draper's header from point blank range on 77 minutes to keep intact Derry's lead.

The on-loan Lincoln striker appealed to the referee claiming the ball was over the line but he really should've made sure from three yards!

There were six minutes of additional time signalled and from a corner kick Maher again came to Derry's rescue as he got a hand to Draper's touch at the near post.

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It was a nervy finish to the match but Derry held on to clinch three important points. Higgins will be delighted with the character shown at a difficult venue as they came under sustained pressure in the end.

Higgins was delighted with the reaction from his players.

"I’m delighted with the result,” said Higgins. “Second half we had to grind it out, fight and scrap and defend crossed into our box. Overall it was the right response from Monday night.”

Drogheda: McCabe; Ahui (Heeney 21) Keeley (Davis 75), Adegboyega, McNally; Grimes (Foley 67), Deegan, Brennan, Rooney; Markey; Draper: Subs Not Used - Pagel, Wogan, Topcu, Leddy.

Derry City: Maher; Coll, McEleney, McJannet, Doherty; Graydon (O'Neill 74), O'Reilly, Diallo, Duffy (Boyce 89); McEneff (Patching 65); C. Kavanagh (McGonigle 74); Subs Not Used - Ryan, B. Kavanagh, Ward, Patton, Mullan.

Referee - Damien MacGraith.