FORMER Brandywell boss, Noel King, will have jotted a few names into his black book having watched Derry City deservedly get their first points on the board when defeating UCD in the Belfield Bowl on Friday night.
DAVE MAHER was at BelfieldPhotos: DONALL FARMER
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager will certainly have been impressed with the contribution from Patrick McEleney, but there could be another few names added following a disciplined Derry City performance.
An early goal, after six minutes, from Gareth McGlynn got the “Candy Stripes” off to a very positive start and while Stephen Kenny’s men did fail to kill the match off despite their dominance, a sublime late strike from skilful defender, Daniel Lafferty, finally made the game same in the 89th minute.
McGlynn’s opening strike - Derry’s first goal since their return to the Premier Division - was fashioned by the McEleney brothers.
Elder sibling, Shane, produced a powerful header out of his defence which found brother, Patrick and his superb reverse pass saw McGlynn drive the ball home from 14 yards.
To their credit both teams tried to play entertaining, fluent football with end to end action the order of the day but the condition of the playing surface did little to assist either side. Indeed, with the UCD rugby team continuing to play their home games in the Belfield Bowl this season, the quality of the surface will prove problematic.
While Derry looked solid in the vital areas, the students squandered a glorious opportunity to draw level on 33 minutes when a perfect cross from deep on the right by defender, Sean Harding, was headed agonisingly wide of an inviting goal from close range by striker Graham Rusk.
That said, the visitors created no shortage of opportunities to extend their advantage, particularly, in the second half when Derry roved forward at will.
Patrick McEleney laid on another perfect pass for striker, Eamon Zayed and while the Libyan international let fly from the edge of the penalty area, his powerful effort was brilliantly pushed over the bar by UCD ‘keeper, Ger Barron.
Derry’s Barry Molloy, who patrolled the area in front of his back four with supreme authority, fouled teenage striker and former City youth player, Cillian Morrison 20 yards from goal but the resulting free by Dean Marshall was blocked by the Derry’s disciplined wall of defenders.
Visiting centre-half, Stewart Greacen proved a constant threat in set-piece situations and Barron had to be at his best when he saved a header by the Scot following a corner.
But Derry really should have made the game safe in the 70th minute when Zayed set-up McGlynn but the Inishowen man directed the ball wide from close range - a terrible miss.
Minutes later Ruairi Harkin, starting in place of the injured Ruaidhri Higgins, floated a free into the danger area before Stephen McLaughlin sent a looping header just over the crossbar as the Derry continued to force the issue in search of the all-important insurance goal.
Patrick McEleney had an effort clip the outside of the upright after he had cut in from the left before the Foylesiders finally ended the game as contest with one minute of normal time remaining.
And what a superb goal it was as the impressive Lafferty combined well with McEleney and Stephen McLaughlin before producing a superb finish into the corner of the net after skilfully weaving his way into the UCD penalty area - a brilliant individual effort.
Kenny was shocked at the condition of the playing surface but he was delighted to see his side get their first points of the new season, particularly after losing out to a late, late goal at the Brandywell last week against Sligo Rovers.
He said: It’s been a long week for us. After conceding late against Sligo last Friday night, I walked the floors at home all week. I wasn’t happy, do I blame myself? Should I have done this or that?
“The players felt the same, so I’m delighted to be travelling back to Derry with a win.”
Commenting on the quality of the pitch, the Derry boss said: “The surface didn’t favour either of us and I can’t understand why it wasn’t rolled. However, the match is over and we’ve achieved our objective, so we move on and prepare for next week’s game in Drogheda.”
With Derry holding a slender lead, Kenny was always concerned in the dugout. “There was always a threat they
might equalise, but I wasvery happy at the way we defended free-kicks, particularly our defensive wall, which remained solid as we’re not the biggest of teams.
“We have a very inexperienced back four with only Eddie McCallion having played in Premier Division before, so there is room for improvement.
“But it was good to come here and win after losing our opening game. UCD have a good home record and they won’t make it easy for any side at Belfield.
“They had spells when they enjoyed better possession and they passed the ball very well, but the pitch was poor and it certainly didn’t help.
“In the end, I think we deserved to win the match and Gareth McGlynn produced a great finish after Patrick McEleney showed great vision with the pass which set him up.
“We created lots of chances, especially in the second half, we couldn’t get that second goal but when we did, it was worth waiting for,” added the Dubliner.
“Daniel Lafferty showed a great first touch and to score a goal like that was fantastic. Having come back from Celtic last year, he needed time to settle as it’s not always easy. Daniel is excellent technically and he’s getting better and better all the time.”
The Derry boss also congratulated the referee on his performance although he felt Patrick McEleney should have been awarded a penalty when appeared to be fouled after he broke though on goal.
“I don’t think it would have been a sending off offence, but Patrick felt he was fouled but the thing I like about Graham Kelly (the referee), is that he doesn’t mind the physical exchanges. He allows players to challenge for the ball, which is only but right.”
He also praised the McEleney brothers on their performances.
“Patrick still has lots to learn and we’re trying to play him more centrally this season. He’s got to get fitter, although his fitness level was decent against UCD. He’s got a good touch, good vision and he will score goals and it’s also worth remembering that he’s just 18.”
On Shane McEleney, Kenny said: Shane was not a regular centre-back at start of last season so he has come a long way in a very short time. He’s a genuine success story from our Academy.
“He’s the complete opposite to Clive Delaney as heading is not his strongest asset. He is a cultured player, a midfielder all his life. While he’s very good on the ball, he is still learning about defending. He is learning that he needs to toughen up and maintain his concentration levels. He’s got excellent recovery pace and he can use the ball very, very well,” concluded the Derry boss.
UCD - 4-4-2 - Barron; Harding, Leahy, Haro, Nangle; O’Conor, Creevy, Corry, Marshall (Meenan 74); Rusk, Morrisson (Benson 66).
DERRY CITY - 4-2-3-1 - Gerard Doherty; Eddie McCallion, Stewart Greacen, Shane McEleney, Daniel Lafferty; Barry Molloy, Ruairi Harkin; Gareth McGlynn, Patrick McEleney (David McDaid, 88 mins.), Stephen McLaughlin; Eamon Zayed,
REFEREE - Mr. Graham Kelly (Cork).