Derry City 1, Sligo Rovers 1
SEANAN Clucas ended Derry City’s four game goal drought as his first goal for the club in the second half cancelled out Sander Puri’s opener and secured a precious point against Sligo Rovers at Brandywell.
It was Derry’s first goal in five matches and while it rescued a share of the spoils, Peter Hutton’s troops, who were reduced to 10 men for the final 25 minutes could so easily have lost a fourth consecutive home fixture.
With IFA referee, Arnold Hunter taking charge of the game as part of the ongoing match official exchange, the Fermanagh man took centre stage in the latter stages.
Mr Hunter flashed a straight red card at Derry midfielder, Mark Timlin following a foul on Kevin Devaney to spark a dramatic finale.
And the home lot had the woodwork to thank in the closing stages as Alan Keane’s spotkick crashed off the crossbar after Dean Jarvis fouled Dinny Corcoran inside the penalty area.
The Candystripes went into the game as the lowest goalscorers in the division having scored just four goals in seven games at Brandywell so predictably the home lot created few noteworthy chances in what was a dull opening half.
In fact it was the visitors who enjoyed the best of the chances and Seamus Sharkey had to react quickly to deny Gavin Peers a clear shot on goal when Danny Ledwith’s low free-kick found him in space at the back post but the Derry midfielder blocked the shot bravely and it went harmlessly out of play for a throw-in.
The Bit O’Red came so close to breaking the deadlock on 33 minutes when Beattie crossed into the box and when Wearen laid the ball into the path of Corcoran, his left footed strike beat City goalkeeper Shaun Patton but it bounced back off the inside of the post and away from danger.
Five minutes from the interval and Puri made space for himself at the right side of the Derry penalty area and his shot was beaten away well by Patton who palmed it behind for a corner.
The introduction of Patrick McEleney from the substitute’s bench after four weeks on the sidelines gave Derry a much needed boost in attack at the start of the second half.
However, it was Sligo who made the breakthrough six minutes after the restart as Estonia international, Puri took advantage of a sloppy error in the Derry defence and he nipped in to take the ball around Patton before slotting into the empty net.
Derry showed great character to launch an immediate response and McEleney’s low cross into box was cleared by Ledwith but it fell kindly to Clucas whose delicate lob found the back of the net to end Derry’s four match goal drought. It was Clucas’ first goal in 12 appearances since his arrival from Linfield.
It was a quick-fire start to the second period and Derry almost went in front on 65 minutes when Shaun Kelly’s cross was met by Barry McNamee but his shot was deflected just wide of the target.
Just as Derry seemed to be on the front foot for the first time the referee flashed a straight red card at City midfielder Timlin following a tackle on Devaney - the Buncrana man’s second dismissal against Rovers this season!
Facing the final 25 minutes with 10 men Derry held on bravely but with eight minutes to go Corcoran went down inside the area after contact with Jarvis and the referee didn’t hesitate in awarding the spotkick.
However, Keane struck the crossbar from the spot as the home support breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Sligo were pushing on for a winner and when Keane crossed invitingly into the box Puri’s volley went narrowly over and Derry saw out five minutes of stoppage time without further incident.
Derry have now gone six games without a win but they will be grateful not to have lost this one.
Derry City: S. Patton; S. Kelly, S. McEleney, A. Barry, D. Jarvis; M. Timlin, S. Sharkey (P. McEleney h-t), S. Clucas, P. Lowry (S. Houston 85), B.McNamee; C. Morrison ( R, Curran 73); Subs Not Used: G. Doherty, A. Elding, J. Daniels, G, Kelly.
Sligo Rovers: R. Brush; A. Keane, G. Peers, S. Folan, D. Ledwith; K. Devaney (M. Nielsen 68), R. McManus, S. Beattie, E. Wearen; S. Puri, D. Corcoran; Subs Not Used - R. Coulter, R. Cretaro, G. Boylan, K. Ward, G. Armstrong.
Referee - Arnold Hunter (Fermanagh)