Derry City 1, UCD 1
DERRY City were made to rue a first half penalty against UCD last night at Brandywell Stadium as they were held to a third consecutive league draw, but ‘Candy Stripes’ boss, Roddy Collins was happier with a much improved performance from his troops.
Patrick McEleney’s spot-kick was superbly saved by UCD goalkeeper, Conor O’Donnell after just 10 minutes before the Students broke the deadlock with an outstanding solo goal from club skipper, Robert Benson.
City showed spirit to fight back with an excellently worked goal from Michael Duffy who headed J.P. McGovern’s inviting cross into the net just before the interval. And both teams had chances to win the contest in an open second half.
In fact the visitors enjoyed the best of those gilt-edged chances and probably should have secured maximum points with Benson striking the post while Samir Belhout blasted over the crossbar when clean through on goal in the latter stages and Gerard Doherty produced a top drawer save to deny Chris Mulhall.
After watching his side succumb to a sixth draw of the campaign, Collins was upbeat and felt if the first half penalty had of went in, it would have become a ‘carnival night’ for the home supporters.
“I’m happier from a coaches point of view,” said Collins. “For the players, I’m disappointed they didn’t get the break they deserved and for the supporters especially, because if the penalty goes in it’s three or four, and it’s a carnival night.
“Goals change games and at that particular time in the game we were confident and so if the goal goes in you build on that and it just takes off from there. But unfortunately that can happen and anyone can miss a penalty.”
Collins is still trying to find the right balance in his new-look team but he’s optimistic that his side will get it right soon.
“We’re trying to get that common bond between being defensive and being attack minded. We played some fantastic football in the first 15 or 20 minutes and the goal would have changed everything.
“You’re going to get chances against and through the middle we were a bit weak. We didn’t play with two holding midfield players but you can’t have it every way.
“We’re at home. We’re playing UCD so we were a bit more adventurous and if you can get your goals early then you can through another midfielder on and play a possession game.
“The goal we scored came from a move which is done 100 times on the training pitch. We were a bit more patient in the final third but not patient enough and that will come with time.”
The match could certainly have swung in Derry’s favour after just 10 minutes when James Kavanagh clipped the heels of Patrick McEleney just inside the penalty area and there was no hesitation from referee, Rob Harvey who pointed to the spot.
McEleney dusted himself down to take the penalty - in the absence of regular penalty taker, Rory Patterson who was banished to play with the club’s Ulster Senior League side - but he was denied by a strong one-handed save from O’Donnell who pushed the ball over the crossbar.
Enda Curran then tried his luck from distance and his powerful strike bounced off the chest of O’Donnell before Tomas Boyle cleared the danger.
UCD striker, Benson gave his side the lead with that outstanding individual goal on 34 minutes when he drove towards the Derry goal unopposed from inside his own half before chipping Ger Doherty with an excellent effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Derry fought back and Enda Curran’s curling effort from 25 yards appeared destined for the far corner but O’Donnell did well at full stretch to turn it behind.
And just before the half-time whistle City got back on level terms when J.P McGovern floated his cross to the back post and Duffy’s downward header from close range found the back of the net the winger’s second goal of the season!
UCD almost stunned their hosts two minutes after the break when Benson was played in behind the Derry defence but the striker was forced wide by Doherty before striking the foot of the post and the chance was lost.
The lively Benson split the Derry defence on 57 minutes with a superb through ball which sent Chris Mulhall sprinting clear and he forced a top drawer save from Doherty. The rebound fell kindly to Benson and his first time strike was deflected narrowly behind.
It was a promising spell from UCD but Derry came so close to taking the lead on the hour mark when Dean Jarvis found McGovern lurking on the edge of the area but his low strike shaved the wrong side of the post.
Derry threatened again three minutes later as McEleney picked out Enda Curran under pressure from the advancing keeper at the back post but the striker’s header went wide.
UCD were presented with two great chances to put the game beyond Derry in the space of as many minutes as Benson’s curling free kick went so close to finding the top corner. And Belhout got beyond Jarvis and found himself clean through on goal but he shot over the crossbar as Derry somehow survived.
Substitute, Mark Stewart caught UCD on the counter attack as he raced towards goal but he sent his shot into the side netting with two minutes remaining as the sides settled for a share of the spoils.
Derry City: G. Doherty: R. Collins, D. Elebert (A. Barry, h-t), C. Byrne, D. Jarvis; J.P. McGovern (M. Stewart 69), D. Ventre, P. McEleney (R. Foy 81), M. Duffy; E. Curran; Subs Not Used - C. Gallagher, R. McBride, T. McNamee, M. Timlin.
UCD: C. O’Donnell; M. Langtry, T. Boyle, J. Kavanagh, H. Douglas; S. Belhout, C. Crowe, R. Creevy, R. Benson,C. Mulhall; C. Morrison; Subs Not Used - M. McGinley, G. Matthews, I. Ryan, G. Burke, M. Scott, S. Coyne, T. O’Hallaron.
Referee - Rob Harvey (Dublin).