Ten man Derry City maintained their 100 per cent away record as Rory Patterson helped himself to a brace of penalties in the Candy Stripes 3-1 win over Dundalk at Oriel Park.
Patterson grabbed his first in the 31st minute - cancelling out Vinny Faherty’s opener for a Dundalk side that were rampant in the early stages - before adding a second, and Derry’s third, ten minutes after Barry McNamee had put the visitors ahead in the 58th minute.
The result, which looked unlikely after a fine opening half hour display by the hosts, moves Declan Devine’s team to within two points of leaders Sligo Rovers and it is the boys from the Brandywell who look like they will pose the biggest threat to Sligo’s bid for successive Airtricity League titles.
In contrast, Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk side have failed to win any of their opening five home games – equalling a record stretching back to 1929 - but the Lilywhites, who remain in third place, will feel hard done by not to have taken something from a game that they dominated for much of the first-half.
Kenny was able to welcome his captain Stephen O’Donnell back for the visit of his former employers. O’Donnell, who missed the five previous games with a calf injury, was the only change to the side that came from two goals behind to force a 2-2 draw with Limerick seven days earlier.
The Candy Stripes arrived on the back of six straight wins and unsurprisingly Declan Devine didn’t tinker too much with his line-up. The City boss made just one change to the side that beat Bohemians 4-0 in their previous outing with Patterson reintroduced alongside Michael Rafter in attack.
With just two goals conceded all season, Derry’s defence arrived with a mean reputation but they were cut open twice in the opening 10 minutes as the home side started on the front foot.
A Vinny Faherty flick set Kurtis Byrne through on goal after just two minutes but although the striker beat Ger Doherty, his run didn’t beat the offside flag and the goal was ruled out.
Byrne, who looked a threat on the shoulder of Derry defenders, was in again five minutes later, this time getting on the end of a delicious Keith Ward flick. The ball bounced kindly for the striker to the right of the six-yard box but he found the angle too much and fired wide.
Kenny, who mentioned the 1913 lockout, Margaret Thatcher and James Connolly in the opening paragraph of his programme notes would have been delighted with his side’s quick tempo start to the game and they took a deserved lead after 19 minutes.
It was the result of a fine team move. O’Donnell picked up a Dane Massey pass just inside the penalty area to lay it off to Keith Ward. The number 10 resisted cries to shoot, opting to thread a killer ball across the penalty area to Faherty who took one touch before smashing the ball across Doherty and into the net.
Derry looked second best throughout, forcing Devine to change his team’s shape to counteract Dundalk’s threat on the Candy Stripes left flank. Michael Rafter moved into a more central role to partner Patterson with Barry McNamee shunted wide left.
And they were thrown a barely deserved lifeline just past the half hour mark. Referee Neil Doyle ruled that Mark Rossiter pushed Ruaidhri Higgins in the back from a free-kick and Patterson made no mistake from the spot, beating Peter Cherrie low to his left.
The decision infuriated the Oriel Park faithful and the Dublin official – who issued seven yellow cards and one red - was the focus of the jeers from the main stand as the sides left the pitch at half-time.
No doubt stung by the words of Devine at the interval, Derry were a different proposition at the start of the second-half.
McNamee tested Cherrie with an effort in the 47th minute with a shot on the left that the Scottish keeper did well to hold on to but he could do little to stop McNamee’s next effort 11 minutes later.
A corner from the right bounced around the Dundalk box until it found its way back to the little Derry midfielder and he curled a wonderful 20-yard effort past the motionless Cherrie into the top left hand corner of the net.
The Brandywell side sensed that Dundalk were on the ropes and they continued to pour forward. And when Patterson scored his second penalty of the game to make it 3-1 after John Sullivan handled a Thomas Crawley shot in the 68th minute it looked curtains for Dundalk.
Kenny’s side have made a habit of coming behind this season and they were given hope in the 73rd minute when Shane McEleney was given his marching orders for a last ditch body check on substitute Tiarnan Mulvenna but Derry held on to see it out and they should have had a third spot-kick late on when Simon Madden was bundled over by Dane Massey.
DUNDALK FC: Peter Cherrie; John Sullivan, Andy Boyle, Mark Rossiter (Patrick Hoban 78), Dane Massey; John Dillon, Richie Towell, Stephen O’Donnell; Vinny Faherty, Keith Ward (Darren Meenan 61), Kurtis Byrne (Tiarnan Mulvenna 73).
Unused subs: Chris Shields, John Mountney, Stephen McDonnell, Aaron Shanahan (GK).
DERRY CITY: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride, Thomas Crawley; Barry Molloy, Ruaidhri Higgins, Barry McNamee; Patrick Kavanagh (Michael Duffy 66), Rory Patterson, Michael Rafter (Patrick McEleney 78).
Unused subs: Dermot McCaffrey, Marc Griffin, Ryan Curran, Conall Kelly, James Gallagher (GK).
REFEREE: Neil Doyle (Dublin).