Derry City stunned by league newcomers Longford Town on opening night
Longford Town 2 Derry City 0
LEAGUE NEWCOMERS Longford Town stunned Derry City at Bishopsgate as the midlanders made a winning return to the League of Ireland top flight after a five year absence.
It was Longford's first victory over Derry since a 4-2 win in October 2015 and it was a thoroughly deserved victory against an out of sorts Candy Stripes who failed to click.
Daire Doyle's energetic side had the visitors on the backfoot from the outset and they took the lead on eight minutes when the impressive Dylan Grimes drove his way past Danny Lafferty inside the box before drilling his effort into the far corner of the net.
It was a disastrous opening for Declan Devine's team and the best they could muster during a hugely disappointing start to the season was headed efforts from skipper Eoin Toal and David Parkhouse which ultimately missed the target.
Jack Malone could have won a penalty in the second half but Longford finished the job when former Cliftonville defender Joe Gorman reacted quickest as Nathan Gartside parried Aodh Dervin's free-kick into his path to double the home side's lead.
Devine opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation with new signing Will Patching supporting Parkhouse up front. Lafferty began at left back with Ciaran Coll slotting in at centre back. Cameron McJannet, meanwhile, was surprisingly deployed in an unfamiliar position in central midfield alongside Ciaron Harkin.
Derry survived an early scare after just two minutes when Rob Manley won the ball 30 yards from the City goal and when he set Dylan Grimes into space the striker's curling strike from the edge of the box went narrowly wide of Gartside's left hand post with the goalkeeper at full stretch.
The league newcomers had Derry on the backfoot from the outset and deservedly took the lead on nine minutes as Grimes skipped past Lafferty all too easily inside the penalty area before drilling the ball into the far corner of the net.
Coll brought down Manley 20 yards from the Derry goal and Grimes bent his free-kick with his right foot but it sailed just wide of the near post on 18 minutes.
Derry threatened from a superb inswinging Patching free-kick from wide on the left but skipper, Eoin Toal's header struck the head of a Longford defender and went behind for their second corner of the match short of the half hour mark.
Aaron Bolger, on loan from Cardiff, tried his luck with a low from distance on 35 minutes and Gartside managed to gather the ball at the second attempt.
The Candy Stripes looked threatening from set-pieces and came close to equalising with successive corner kicks. Patching floated the first corner towards the back post where Toal's downward header was hooked off the line superbly by Bolger.
From the resultant corner from the same side Parkhouse peeled off his marker but sent a strong header just over the crossbar.
At the other end O'Driscoll kept the ball alive finding Dean Byrne lurking on the edge of the box and his strike went narrowly wide of the Derry net.
On the stroke of half-time Parkhouse managed to test Longford keeper when Parkhouse's left footed shot on the turn from 18 yards forced a fine reaction save from Lee Stacey.
Longford were fully deserving of their slender lead as the teams went in at the break.
Derry boss, Devine made a double substitution at the interval with Jack Malone and Danny Lupano entering the fray at the expense of Cole and Akintunde in a 4-3-3 formation.
However it was Longford who threatened first as Dean Byrne shot from inside the penalty area was saved well by Gartside. The ball broke to Dean Zambra but his curling effort sailed over the crossbar.
From another Patching corner kick Derry captain, Toal again rose highest at the back post but sent his header the wrong side of the post.
Longford hit Derry on the break on the hour mark with Grimes showing Coll a clean set of heels on the right wing but there was no one to meet his cross in the box. Paddy Kirk kept the move alive and sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal but again it evaded everyone and the chance was lost.
Derry appealed for a penalty when substitute Malone was brought down just inside the box by Callum Thompson but the referee, Adriano Reale waved play on.
The midlanders raced clear at the other end but Grimes who looked clean through on the right flank was brought crashing down by the retreating Patching who received a yellow card for the foul.
From the freekick, Aodh Dervin dipped his effort over the wall and Gartside parried it away from goal. Longford reacted quickest and defender Gorman fired the ball into the net off the underside of the crossbar at the near post to double Longford's lead on 72 minutes.
It was a long way back for Derry after that but it could've been worse as Longford's 2020 Player of the Year, Dervin cannoned his 35 yard free-kick off the crossbar.
Derry huffed and puffed as the clock ticked down but failed to threaten the Longford net with the midlanders deservedly taking maximum points.
Longford Town: L. Stacey; K. Chambers (J. Manley) , A. O'Driscoll, J. Gorman, P. Kirk; D. Grimes, A. Dervin, D. Zambra, D. Byrne (C. Thompson 63); A. Bolger (A. Dobbs 85); R. Manley (A. Robinson 85); Subs Not Used - S. Elworthy, S. Verdon, C. Davis, M. Kelly.
Derry City: N. Gartside; D. Cole (D. Lupano h-t), E. Toal, C. Coll, D. Lafferty; W. Fitzgerald (C. McLaughlin 79), C. Harkin, C. McJannet (J. Thomson 81), J. Akintunde (J. Malone h-t); W. Patching; D. Parkhouse: Subs Not Used - J. Lemoignan, R. Boyce, P. Ferry, B. Barr, M. Glynn.
Referee: Adriano Reale.