Derry City let Shamrock Rovers off the hook as Will Patching missed penalty
Derry City 0 Shamrock Rovers 0
WILL PATCHING's first miss from the penalty spot for Derry City proved costly for the Brandywell club's title aspirations as they let Shamrock Rovers off the hook on Foyleside.
The Englishman scored his previous six spotkicks for Derry but wasted a glorious chance to close the gap on the leaders to five points when Alan Mannus saved 10 minutes before half-time.
The Rovers goalkeeper saved superbly at full stretch to deny City sub, Michael Duffy on the hour mark.
And Ryan Graydon struck the foot of the post five minutes later as Derry went for the jugular.
It was a brave effort from the league's third placed team who remain eight points adrift of Rovers.
Derry refused to jump through hoops for the Dubliners who requested to postpone the match to give them extra time to prepare after their victory over FC Shkupi on Tuesday night.
However, the ultimately couldn't take advantage and their slim hopes of catching the champions are fading fast.
Patching was one of three changes from the Derry team held by Dundalk at Oriel Park last weekend, replacing Joe Thomson. Ciaran Coll came in for Shane McEleney at the back while Jamie McGonigle was preferred to James Akintunde - his first start since the 2-1 win over Finn Harps last month.
Stephen Bradley made four changes from the team which started against FC Shkupi with Dan Cleary, Aaron Greene, Richie Towell and skipper Ronan Finn all starting on the bench. In came Sean Kavanagh, Graham Burke, Sean Gannon and Neil Farrugia.
It was Farrugia who had the first attempt of a cagey opening when he won possession inside the Derry final third and his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
From Dylan Watts' corner from the left, Sean Hoare peeled off his marker and his glancing header dipped just wide of the far post on 22 minutes.
Gannon booked robust challenge on Patching 30 minutes
Derry got the home crowd on their feet with a lovely move which began from Connolly's neat pass out from the back which set Ryan Graydon clear on the right and when the ball was worked to Patching, the Englishman was brought down on the edge of the penalty area.
Patching picked himself up to clip the resultant free-kick towards the back post where a Shamrock Rovers defender flicked the ball away from danger with a flailing arm.
The referee assistant signalled for a penalty and eventually match referee Paul McLaughlin pointed to the spot to give Derry a glorious chance to hit the front nine minutes before the
It was Patching who took responsibility but after a stuttered run-up, the midfielder rolled the ball tamely into the hands of Alan Manus who dived low to his left.
That incident sparked the game into life and from another attack from Graydon on the right, the ball eventually fell to McEleney on the edge of the box and he volleyed narrowly over the crossbar.
It was encouraging from the home side and they finished the half with plenty of possession but couldn't find a way through the Rovers defence.
Graham Burke showed nice feet to beat his man on the right wing before bursting towards goal but his long range strike in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time was gathered cleanly by Maher as the teams went in at the break on level terms.
Rovers hit Derry on the break when Connolly lost possession attempting to play it out from the back but when Farrugia passed inside to Kavanagh who was in space but his first time shot was saved low by Brian Maher on 53 minutes.
Derry made a double substitution just short of the hour mark with Duffy and Akintunde introduced to the fray at the expense of McGonigle and Declan Glass.
And Duffy needed less than 60 seconds to make an impact as Patching rolled a lovely ball into his path and his side-footed effort was heading for the far corner before Mannus turned it behind superbly at full stretch.
Graydon was slipped through on goal by a neat pass from McEleney and the winger's shot across the face of goal struck the foot of the post on 65 minutes. The rebound fell to McEleney whose shot struck the body of Hoare before Rovers cleared.
Derry sensed victory and McJannet came so close to finding the net with a glancing header from Patching's corner kick on 73 minutes but it sailed the wrong side of the post.
Duffy was causing real problems for the Rovers defence in the final stages but Mannus was once more equal to his shot on 75 minutes.
Higgins introduced 19 year-old former Waterford striker Cian Kavanagh for the final 15 minutes in an effort to find a winner.
Patching volleyed straight into the hands of Mannus and Coll's downward header somehow missed the target from a corner kick as Derry piled on the pressure on a jaded Rovers outfit.
Five minutes of stoppage time were signalled at the end of the second half but Derry couldn't find a breakthrough as Rovers went home happy.
Derry City: Maher: Dummigan, Connolly, McJannet, Coll; Graydon (C. Kavanagh 72), Diallo, McEleney, Glass (Duffy 58); Patching; McGonigle (Akintunde 58); Subs Not Used - Lemoignan, Boyce, Thomson, S. McEleney, B. Kavanagh, Lafferty.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Gannon, Hoare, Grace, Lyons; Farrugia (Cleary 73), O'Neill, Kavanagh (Towell 80), Watts (Greene 73); Burke (Byrne 51); Gaffney (Emakhu 80): Pohls, Finn, Towell, Ferizaj, Tetteh.
Referee - Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan)