Sligo Rovers 1 Derry City 2
DERRY CITY skipper, Barry McNamee completed a crucial comeback victory over Sligo Rovers in bizarre fashion as the Brandywell club took a giant step towards European qualification in their final away fixture of the season.
With European rivals, St Patrick's Athletic to visit Brandywell on Tuesday night in the penultimate fixture of the 2019 campaign, the Candy Stripes need just a single point to ensure Europa League football returns to Foyleside next season.
They needed to do it the hard way at the Showgrounds, however, as Lewis Banks gave Sligo Rovers a 13th minute lead against the run of play but Jamie McDonagh, who had struck the woodwork moments earlier, fired Derry on level terms on 34 minutes.
And man of the match, McNamee then applied the pressure on the keeper who miscued his clearance and the City skipper did superbly to divert it into the net on the volley with his right foot.
It was a deserved victory - a sixth win on the road this season - for Declan Devine's troops who celebrated passionately at the final whistle with a large travelling support as they continue to haunt down Bohemians who are four points better off in third.
Devine had made just one change from the team which lost narrowly to champions, Dundalk in their last outing with Grant Gillespie replacing Darren McCauley who dropped to the bench. Both Jack Malone,Gerardo Bruna and Darren Cole were the only absentees as the trio remain sidelined through injury.
Sligo Rovers meanwhile, went into their final home match of the campaign without injured striker, Romeo Parkes and the suspended, Ronan Murray, however, Ronan Coughlan, Daryl Fordyce and Kyle Callan-McFadden all returned following suspension.
Derry began with intent and from a long David Parkhouse throw-in from the left side,. Ally Gilchrist's looping, backward header nestled on the roof of the net after just two minutes of play.
Moments later a crossfield pass from skipper, McNamee found Eoin Toal who headed downwards into the path of Junior on the edge of the box but the City winger snatched at his shot which went harmlessly wide of the target.
From a quick counter Parkhouse spread the ball wide to Junior on the left flank who ran at Sligo right-back, Danny Kane before firing his shot straight into the hands of Ed McGinty.
Despite Derry's dominant start it was the home lot who broke the deadlock on 13 minutes. Coughlan split the City defence with a sublime, disguised pass and David Cawley cut the ball back towards Banks who was allowed to take a touch before burying the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
Derry almost got back on terms on 20 minutes when McDonagh went on a mazy run towards the Sligo penalty area and skillfully rolled the ball past two Rovers defenders before sending his right footed strike off the crossbar.
It was a terrific effort as City began to churn back through the gears and the lively McDonagh again did well to get in behind the Rovers defence four minutes later but this time the winger fired wide of the target from a narrow angle.
As the game approached the half hour mark, McDonagh sent a searching free-kick towards a crowded penalty area and when Kane failed to clear the danger the ball fell to Northern Ireland U19 international, Toal who sent his rash effort on the half volley well wide of the mark from 10 yards.
The Candy Stripes continued to apply the pressure and deservedly equalised after Ciaran Coll and McNamee linked up well on the left wing and when the ball eventually broke to McDonagh who was lurking on the edge of the Rovers penalty area, he sent his first time strike with his left foot into the bottom corner.
The visitors upped the ante after the goal and McNamee played Parkhouse through on goal with a brilliant through-ball from just outside the Rovers' 18 yard box but just as the striker went to bear down on goal, his shot was blocked bravely by John Mahon. McNamee kept the move alive but his eventual shot was saved well by McGinty as Sligo survived.
The Bit O'Red weren't as fortunate two minutes before the break as Mahon played the ball back towards McGinty but the Sligo keeper's attempted clearance found McNamee who expertly met it on the volley and guided it into the net with his right foot.
Sligo came close to getting back on terms on the stroke of half-time when Kane raced down the right wing before cutting it back into the path of Daryl Fordyce who fired narrowly over the crossbar from 14 yards with a blistering effort.
Sligo were gifted a decent chance seven minutes into the second half when Gillespie's hooked clearance put the City defence under pressure and Peter Cherrie was grateful that Fordyce's tame close range header went straight into the hands of the keeper.
Neither side could create anything of note during a scrappy 20 minute spell and when Gillespie cut inside from the right he failed to test McGinty with his curling effort from the edge of the box on 78 minutes.
The game petered out as Sligo during the largely uneventful latter stages while Derry did their defensive duties brilliantly to claw out a deserved win.
Sligo Rovers: E. McGinty: D. Kane (S. Warde 88), K. Callan-McFadden, J. Mahon, L. Banks; K. Twardek, D. Cawley (J. Dunleavy 79), N. Morahan, R. Donelon (B. Morely 84); R. Coughlan, Darly Fordyce; Subs Not Used - L. McNicholas, N. Watson, J. Russell, D. Leverock.
Derry City: P. Cherrie; G. Gillespie, E. Toal, A. Gilchrist, C. Coll; C. Harkin, J. McDonagh, G. Sloggett, J. Ogedi-Uzokwe (A. Delap 94); B. McNamee (M. McCrudden 91); D. Parkhouse (D. McCauley 88); Subs Not Used - N. Gartside, M. McChrystal, R. Boyce, C. Davis.
Referee - Paul Tuite.