DERRY City’s wait for a first league victory goes on as Roddy Collins’ troops were held to a entertaining draw against reigning champions, St Patrick’s Athletic at Brandywell Stadium.
It was a match which really could have gone either way but City winger Michael Duffy will be wondering how his 93rd minute strike didn’t find the back of the net for what would surely have been a valuable winning strike for the Candy Stripes.
The teenager’s close range strike was somehow deflected narrowly over the crossbar in the dying embers of the game by ‘Super Saints’ goalkeeper Brendan Clarke.
As it was, the home side were denied their opening league victory and had to be content with a well earned draw - the club’s third draw from the first four league outings!
However, it could have been a much different story had match referee, Paul McLaughlin awarded what appeared to be a nailed on penalty kick in the first half when St Pat’s striker, Christy Fagan went down inside the Derry area after a tangle with Ryan McBride.
Both sides had plenty of opportunities to take a much needed three points in either half but Gerard Doherty - who made his return to the starting line-up - twice denied the impressive Chris Forrester while Rory Patterson could have scored with nine minutes to go but the Derry striker blasted over from 12 yards.
Derry boss, Collins made three changes to the team which drew 1-1 at Drogheda in United Park with McBride, Patrick McEleney and Gerard Doherty restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Aaron Barry, Ryan Curran and Ciaran Gallagher.
Jon Paul McGovern, meanwhile was on bench after finally receiving international clearance in time for kick-off.
For the Saints, centre half Kenny Browne passed a pre-match fitness test but the game came too soon for the injured Keith Fahy.
It was a lively opening to the game as the visiting defence charged down strikes from McEleney and Danny Ventre during a promising venture forward from the City attack on 10 minutes, a move started by Duffy who seemed high on confidence after signing his one year contract extension.
Forrester’s long range shot had Gerard Doherty in trouble two minutes later and when the Derry stopper parried into the path of Fagan, the striker scuffed his shot from 12 yards before going to ground under pressure from McBride. The home lot survived appeals for a penalty from Fagan as the referee waved away the protests and the danger was cleared.
It was end to end and when Mark Stewart ran inside from the right wing and drove his cross towards the back post, neither Patterson nor Dean Jarvis were able to get that vital touch.
Former Candy Stripe, Killian Brennan tried his luck with a low drive towards Doherty’s far corner on 35 minutes and the Derry goalkeeper just about managed to deal with it and turn it behind for a corner.
Doherty needed to be alert once again five minutes before the interval when the lively Forrester ran unchallenged toward goal before unleashing a well struck shot which the Derry keeper parried clear. Conan Byrne picked up the pieces and crossed towards the back post but Forrester’s tame header went harmlessly wide.
St Pat’s shaded the opening 45 minutes in terms of gilt-edged chances but either side could have gone into the interval in the lead - Fagan’s tumble inside the Derry area was certainly the major talking point of the half.
Derry started the second half on the front-foot but it was St Pat’s who came closest to opening the scoring when Forrester’s powerful strike was saved by Doherty. The rebound fell kindly to the Saints’ midfielder and his second strike on goal was deflected off the back of Cliff Byrne’s back and sailed over the crossbar.
Sean Hoare headed over the Derry bar from Killian Brennan’s free-kick on the edge of the penalty area as the visitors began to grow into the game with 30 minutes remaining.
The home side really should have taken the lead with nine minutes to go when Stewart raced down the right flank and pulled the ball back to Patterson who had peeled off his marker but the striker wildly blasted his shot over the crossbar.
St Pat’s responded and Fagan skimmed the top of the Derry crossbar with a powerful volley moments later.
Both sides were really going for the win at this stage and Jarvis, who enjoyed another fine game at left-back, should have found the target from Ventre’s inswinging free-kick but the defender put his header wide at the back post.
Derry pressed for the winner in the closing minutes of the game and were desperately unlucky not to secure what would have been a morale-boosting win whenDuffy latched onto Jarvis’ pass and his shot from close range was somehow deflected over the bar by Clarke.
DERRY CITY: G. Doherty; R. Collins, R. McBride (A. Barry 76), C. Byrne, D. Jarvis; M. Stewart, B. Molloy, D. Ventre, M. Duffy; P. McEleney (E. Curran 58), R. Patterson; Subs Not Used - C. Gallagher, D. Elebert, M. Timlin, J.P. McGovern, R, Curran.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: B. Clarke; G. O’Brien, K. Oman (S. Hoare 29), K. Browne, I. Bermingham; C. Byrne, G. Bolger, K. Brennan, C. Forrester, M. Quigley (J. Chambers 60); C. Fagan; Subs Not Used - P. Jennings, L. Lynch,C. McCormick, L. Fitzgerald, D. Kavanagh.
Referee - Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan).