Derry City reignite title race with convincing victory over UCD as Rovers lose
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DERRY CITY reignited the Premier Division title race as they closed to within four points of leaders Shamrock Rovers following a convincing victory over bottom of the table UCD at Brandywell.
The Candystripes took full advantage of Rovers' defeat in the Dublin derby as they turned on the style in the driving rain in the second half on Foyleside.
Ryan Graydon gave Ruaidhri Higgins' troops the perfect start with a close range strike after five minutes but UCD were determined to avoid a repeat of the 7-1 drubbing they suffered on their last trip to Brandywell last April.
Sadou Diallo settled the nerves with a fine finish on 71 minutes and Michael Duffy put the icing on the cake with his first goal since his return to his hometown club.
It was Derry's 10th match unbeaten in the league as they take form into the final stages and Rovers, who have a game in hand, will no doubt be looking sheepishly over their shoulders.
Derry's last home win was that big win over the Students almost five months ago but they won this one with ease in the end.
Higgins made two changes to the team that clinched a last gasp victory over Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Monday night.
In came the experience of Mark Connolly and Michael Duffy as Joe Thomson and Ciaran Coll who both dropped to the bench.
UCD were the only team in the top flight Derry boasted a 100 percent record against prior to kick-off and they needed just five minutes to break down the visiting defence.
Brandon Kavanagh clipped a lovely pass over the top of the UCD defence into the path of McEleney who found the overlapping run of McJannet with a clever flick. The City defender fired goalwards and Akintunde twice struck the post from close range from a tight angle before Graydon tapped in the rebound.
UCD will have feared the worst after that opening strike but they responded well and on 15 minutes Michael Gallagher found the run of Sean Brennan who fired narrowly over the crossbar.
Two minutes later Duffy's inswinging cross towards the far post was headed goalwards by Akintunde but Kian Moore gathered comfortably.
The Dubliners were frustrating their hosts and they carved open an excellent chance of their own 10 minutes before the break. Dara Keane sent Brennan into space through the middle and he played a neat pass into Dylan Duffy who was free on the edge of the penalty area but his tame shot failed to trouble Maher.
UCD came into the match in good form with just two defeats in their last seven matches in all competitions and it was easy to see why.
Moments later the lively Brennan cut in on his right foot from wide on the left side and his brilliant curling strike needed to be tipped over the bar by Maher who was at full stretch.
Derry midfielder Sadou Diallo ballooned an effort over the bar as the Candystripes huffed and puffed before the interval.
There was torrential rain as the players emerged for the second half and the downpour appeared to play into the hands of Derry.
Akintunde did well to lay the ball into the path of Diallo and his first time strike clipped the outside of the post 56 minutes wide as Derry began to get a grip on the game.
Duffy's free-kick from 30 yards was spilled by Moore with Graydon ready to pounce but UCD managed to clear the danger.
The rain was incessant and Derry were picking up the tempo. McEleney found Duffy on the edge of the area and he fired just wide of the target on 68 minutes.
The Foylesiders netted the insurance goal on 70 minutes as Duffy found Diallo's run off his left shoulder and the Englishman arrowed his strike into the far corner.
The pressure was relentless from Derry as they chased to increase their lead and substitute Jamie McGonigle, who netted a hat-trick against UCD last April, forced a smart save from Moore from a tight angle.
McEleney carved open the UCD defence with a sublime pass into Duffy who cut inside and shot past Moore who managed to get a hand on the ball. It was the winger's first goal since returning to Brandywell and his first for his hometown club since scoring in the FAI Cup semi-final replay against Shamrock Rovers in 2014!
McGonigle volleyed narrowly wide of the post in the dying seconds as Derry smelt blood and moments later he forced a fine one handed save from Moore from distance.
With Dundalk held to a scoreless draw against Shelbourne, Derry sit two points clear in second but they will now have eyes on the big prize.
DERRY CITY: Maher: Dummigan, Connolly, McEleney, McJannet (Coll 65); Graydon (McEneff 85), Diallo, P. McEleney, Duffy; Kavanagh (Boyce 60), Akintunde (McGonigle 60): Subs Not Used - Lemoignan, Thomson, Lafferty, C. Kavanagh, Porter.
UCD: Moore; Dunne (Corrish 83), Gallagher, Todd, Norris; Dignam (Lonergan), Keane Caffrey. Duffy; Brennan (Scott 83); Nolan (Higgins 69); Subs Not Used - Healy, Rogers, Duggan, Keaney.
Referee - Oliver Moran.