Joe Thomson rescues point for Derry City against stubborn Shels but league title hopes fade

Derry City 1 Shelbourne 1

JOE THOMSON kept Derry City's dwindling hopes of challenging Shamrock Rovers for the title alive with an 83rd minute equaliser against the Brandywell club's FAI Cup Final opponents Shelbourne.

The Scotsman came off the bench to divert his close range shot past Brendan Clarke to keep Derry mathematically in the title race, but only just!

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Rovers opened up an eight points advantage with a big win over St Pat's at Tallaght and Derry now can't afford to lose any further points when they play their game in hand away to Sligo Rovers next Monday night.

Shels frustrated their cup final opponents and Jack Moylan fired them in front after a disastrous mistake from Derry keeper Brian Maher on 69 minutes.

Derry pressed for a winner at the end and Mark Connolly was denied by a great save from Clarke while Thomson's glancing header clipped the post but they simply ran out of time.

It was Derry's 19 game undefeated domestically but their six game winning run came to an untimely end in their penultimate home match of the campaign.

Ruaidhri Higgins troops must now win their last three home matches and hope for the best.

Derry City sub, Joe Thomson scores a late equaliser against Shels. Photo by Kevin Moore.

If this was a dress rehearsal for next month's FAI Cup Final, the Aviva showpiece could be a cagey affair as Shels sucked the life out of the first half.

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The teams came into the game on the back of contrasting league form. Shels were seeking a first win in 10 league matches while Derry had their eyes on a seventh straight win and 10th in all competitions.

Damien Duff's side came to frustrate with Moylan playing through the middle as a lone frontman for the Dubliners whose only recognised striker, Dan Carr started on the bench.

The home support erupted into song when news filtered through from Tallaght of St Pat's breakthrough goal after four minutes. And Derry almost took advantage three minutes later when Patching floated a free-kick from the left towards the back post where Boyce sent his downward header the wrong side of the post.

It was a nervous start by the home side and on 12 minutes Kameron Ledwidge forced an excellent save from Brian Maher who tipped his long range strike over the bar with a strong hand.

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At the other end Kavanagh's clever dummy opened up space for McGonigle who turned sharply on the edge of the box and dragged his left footed shot narrowly wide of the post.Graham Burke fired the league leaders level from the penalty spot on 36 minutes at Tallaght as Derry continued to be frustrated by Shels on Foyleside.

There was little to report heading into half-time at Brandywell as Rovers took the lead through Dan Cleary in Dublin in controversial circumstances.

Derry needed to be better in the second half if they were to break the dogged resolve of Damien Duff's troops and keep the pressure on the Hoops.

The Candystripes emerged with a spring in their step in the second half and Michael Duffy tried his luck from 25 yards but failed to hit the target.

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Patching was gifted possession on the edge of the Shels penalty area and his strike was parried clear by Brendan Clarke on 56 minutes as Rovers went 3-1 up thanks to Sean Hoare in Tallaght.

Duffy arrowed a shot across goal and agonisingly wide of the far post with Derry's best chance of a breakthrough on the hour mark.

Disaster struck for Derry on 69 minutes when Maher received a back pass from McJannet and passed straight to the feet of Moylan who fired into the roof of the net.

Duffy whipped in a free-kick from deep on the left but Mark Connolly saw it late in a crowded penalty box and his header looped over the bar from close range with 10 minutes to go.

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Rovers went 4-1 up against 10 man Pat's in Dublin but finally Derry put the ball in the back of the Shels net on 83 minutes when Duffy's cross was diverted past Clarke by substitute Thomson.

McEleney's glancing header from Duffy's cross flashed wide of the far post as Derry desperately pushed for a winner.

Four minutes of stoppage time was signalled and Thomson came a whisker from netting a dramatic winner from Sadou Diallo's teasing cross but couldn't get enough on his diving header.Connolly's backward header had Clarke backpedaling but the Shels keeper did brilliantly to tip over the Clones man's effort at the death.

Derry must simply win their remaining three league matches including that clash with Rovers in Tallaght and hope for a further slip-up by the champions.

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Derry City: B. Maher: R. Boyce (R. Graydon 71), M. Connolly, S. McEleney (J. Akintunde 80), C. McJannet; B. Kavanagh (S Diallo 58), C. Dummigan, P. McEleney, M. Duffy; W. Patching (J. Thomson 71); J. McGonigle (C. Kavanagh 58): Subs Not Used - J. Lemoignan, C. Coll, J. McEneff, D. Lafferty.Shelbourne: B. Clarke: J. Wilson, S Negru, L.Byrne, S. Griffin, K. Ledwidge; S. Farrell, M. Coyle (J. Lunney 62), G. Molloy, B. McManus (A. Dervin 76); J. Moylan (D. Carr 88); Subs Not Used - S. van der Sluis, A. O'Driscoll, J. Giurgi, L. Browne.

Referee - Derek Tomney (Dublin).