Derry City 0, Dundalk 2
CONOR McCormack’s controversial sending off midway through the first half turned this match on its head as Dundalk got back to winning ways despite a dogged display from 10 man Derry City at Brandywell.
Derry had made a hugely impressive start to the game against the league champions but when referee, Rob Harvey flashed a straight red card at McCormack for a challenge on Sean Gannon it was always going to prove difficult.
And when Ciaran Kilduff got the breakthrough four minutes into stoppage time at the end of the first half it proved a real sucker punch for Peter Hutton’s troops.
The Candy Stripes weren’t to be deterred and produced a brave performance in the second half, however, Dundalk sealed the points with two minutes to go as substitute, David McMillan fired past Gerard Doherty.
It was an encouraging start from the home side, Dundalk somewhat taken by surprise by Hutton’s decision to play both Stephen Dooley and Mark Timlin in advanced roles.
But it was Dundalk who came closest to breaking the deadlock on 13 minutes when Kilduff got onto the end of Sean Gannon’s cross and his downward header bounced dangerously before being tipped behind by Ger Doherty.
And then came the turning point in the match on 23 minutes when McCormack went diving in to challenge Gannon. The Derry midfielder won the ball but the referee didn’t hesitate in flashing a straight red for dangerous play.
The incident happened directly in front of the Derry dugout and City’s assistant boss, Paul Hegarty was also sent to the stands for his protests.
Dundalk had a chance to hurt their opponents on the hour mark when Kilduff rose highest to meet Daryl Horgan’s cross at the back post but he headed wide.
Derry did have opportunities before the interval but tame free-kicks from McEneff and Timlin were easily gathered by Gary Rogers.
Timlin then tried his luck from distance three minutes before the break with a sublimely struck left footed shot and Rogers had to be alert to push away the danger.
Derry were hit by that sucker punch in the fourth and final minute of first half stoppage time when Dane Massey’s low cross from the left was clinically slotted into the corner by Kilduff.
The second half wasn’t the one-sided affair one would expect but Dundalk did have a great chance to put the game out of Derry’s reach on 55 minutes.
The ball was sent dangerously into the Derry area and it was flicked into John Mountney who screwed his shot harmlessly wide.
Dean Jarvis sent an inviting ball towards the back post where Rob Cornwall ghosted in but his header was saved by Rogers on 64 minutes.
Gerard Doherty reacted quickly to save from Richie Towell from 12 yards three minutes later.
And Brian Gartland should have scored on 74 minutes when the Dundalk defender was gifted a free header in a suspiciously offside position but he headed straight at Doherty.
Timlin came so close to equalising for the Candystripes with seven minutes to go but he flashed his strike agonisingly wide from outside the area.
Doherty produced a magnificent block to deny substitute David McMillan from close range with five minutes to go and Towell sent his rebound well over the crossbar.
Seamus Sharkey failed to clear his lines on 88 minutes and when Dane Massey took advantage, playing in McMillan who shot across Doherty and into the far corner.
Derry City: G. Doherty; R. Cornwall, R. McBride (S. Sharkey 73), A. Barry, D. Jarvis; P. Lowry, C. McCormack, B. McNamee, A. McEneff; S. Dooley (R. Curtis h-t), M. Timlin (R. Curran 82); Subs Not Used - S. Patton, M. Quigley, J. Daniels, G. Kelly.
Dundalk: G. Rogers; S Gannon, B. Gartland, A. Boyle, D. Massey; J. Mountney, S. O’Donnell, R. Towell, D. Horgan; R. Finn, C. Kilduff (D. McMillan 75); Subs Not Used - G. Sava, C. Shields, K. Byrne, S. Grimes, P. Barrett, D. Meenan.
Referee - Robert Harvey (Dublin).