Derry City's trademark late goals have kept the 'candle burning' on European hopes
DERRY CITY’s remarkable knack for scoring late goals has served them well this season and Cameron McJannet believes his latest last gasp heroics in a match deferred due to electrical blackout at the RSC, has kept ‘the candle burning’ in the club’s pursuit of European football.
Derry’s hopes of pegging back Sligo Rovers for that third automatic European spot almost went up in flames on a frustrating night in Waterford on Tuesday but McJannet stepped up when it mattered to give the Brandywell side plenty to play for in the remaining three league fixtures with a decisive 93rd minute strike.
No less than 12 points have been won courtesy of goals scored in the dying embers of games since Ruaidhri Higgins took charge at Brandywell with this never-say-die approach becoming a trademark of the Limavady man’s re-energised squad.
The club’s unlikeliest of leading marksmen, Ronan Boyce, has been responsible for FIVE of those points alone with his 86th minute strike against Sligo Rovers clinching a vital 2-1 win at the Showgrounds back in August. The Ramelton lad also scored an 86th minute equaliser against the Bit O’Red at Brandywell in a 1-1 draw back in June and a dramatic 93rd minute leveller against Bohemians two weeks ago on Foyleside.
And his defensive partner McJannet has also played a major role in keeping Derry’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Europa Conference League alive. His 93rd minute equaliser against Waterford was his FIFTH goal of the season and his first since a memorable 89th minute winning strike against Bohemians at Dalymount on April 30th. The former Stoke man had previously popped up for a second half goal to earn a point at home to Dundalk under Declan Devine.
Marc Walsh’s 92nd minute equaliser against Bohs at Brandywell in June, James Akintunde’s 91st minute strike in a 1-1 draw with Longford and Joe Thomson’s 90th minute leveller against Finn Harps at home last September have all helped to keep alive hopes of securing at least fourth spot with three games to go.
That’s not to mention Danny Lafferty’s 96th minute penalty against Drogheda in the FAI Cup which took the game to extra-time and a penalty shoot-out which took Derry into the next round. And Akintunde’s 91st minute strike against Bohs in Dalymount was then outdone by Georgie Kelly’s thunderous 96th minute equaliser at the Dublin venue.
It all points to a remarkable fighting spirit in the Derry camp and despite an under par performance in Waterford and an ill-timed dip in form, the Candy Stripes have given themselves real hope of ending the campaign on a high note with McJannet’s latest reprieve.
The 2-2 draw against Waterford keeps Derry in fourth, six points behind Sligo who have yet to come to Brandywell and goal hero McJannet was delighted that the light is still shining brightly on Derry’s European charge.
“It wasn’t good enough right throughout the whole game,” admitted the Englishman. “Even worse in the second half, but then again it’s football and you’ve got to try and look at the positives and we’ve come away with a point we didn’t deserve.
“It keeps the candle burning for European football and it’s a great trait to have, being able to score these late goals, but we’d rather put a performance in and score more goals before the last few minutes. That’s much easier said than done though.”
Given the performance and the fact Derry were second best to relegation threatened Waterford on the night, McJannet admitted the players were anxious to get back on the team bus with a precious point intact. Next up is a trip to North West rivals Finn Harps and the defender knows the team must use the late equaliser in Waterford as a springboard if they’re to catch the Bit O’Red.
“We’ll take the point, especially after how poor we were tonight. We’ll take it and leave quite quickly. Friday night is going to be an absolute dogfight but we’ll prepare the best we possibly can starting on the way home, eating right, stretching and recovery so we’ll be in the best possible shape for Friday.
“A good performance on Friday and Sligo at home when the Brandywell will be bouncing hopefully and you never know, on the last day anything can happen. We’ve got to be prepared for a dogfight on Friday night and get some momentum going for the next three games.”