Ryan Graydon scores winner against 10 man Shels at Tolka Park as Derry City move top
RYAN Graydon's first half strike sent Derry City back to the top of the table as the Candy Stripes returned to winning ways against 10 man Shelbourne at a rain-drenched Tolka Park.
Damien Duff's men will be sick of the sight of the former Shels' underage player who inflicted so much damage on them at last November's FAI Cup Final.
Graydon also netted a stoppage time winner when the teams last met in the league in Drumcondra last August. He opened his account for the season with a close range strike from Will Patching's corner kick on 11 minutes - his first since that winner last summer at the same venue.
Shels centre half Paddy Barrett had saved Jamie McGonigle's goalbound effort on the line with a great interception moments earlier.
Substitute Kian Leavy somehow missed from six yards on 33 minutes while Ollie O'Neill fired over when in behind the Shels defence shortly afterwards.
Barrett was shown a yellow card for a foul on O'Neill in first half stoppage time and four minutes after the restart the centre half received a second booking when his flailing arm struck the face of McGonigle.
It was Shelbourne's first defeat at Tolka Park this season and the first goal conceded as Derry saw out the win which took them back on the summit and kept intact their unbeaten run.
It was Derry assistant Alan Reynold's final hurrah as he said his emotional goodbyes to the City fans and players after the final whistle before taking up his role at his hometown club Waterford as Keith Long's No.2.
Derry welcomed back Cameron McJannet after a lengthy lay-off with a hamstring injury as Mark Connolly, Adam O'Reilly, Colm Whelan and Ciaron Harkin all sat in the stands.
Shane Farrell's crunching tackle on City skipper Patrick McEleney set the tone 60 second into the match but Derry were undeterred and almost took the lead 30 seconds later.
Maher kicked it long towards Graydon who flicked it into the path of Jamie McGonigle who took a touch to take it away from the advancing Conor Kearns but his strike from a tight angle was cleared brilliantly off the line by Barrett.
Derry were dominating the ball despite the difficult conditions as the rain swept down on a bobbly pitch which was a far cry from the Aviva Stadium's surface. McEleney was fouled in a central position 25 yards from goal and Will Patching's superb free-kick was destined for the top corner until Kearns intervened with an equally impressive save to turn it around for a corner kick.
And with 11 minutes on the clock the resultant corner from Patching found Graydon at the back post and the winger side-footed into the net from close range before celebrating with the travelling support in the stands behind the goal. It was Graydon's first of the season and his first since scoring that winner on Derry's last visit to Drumcondra last August.
Derry had the bit between their teeth and Ben Dohery did brilliantly on the left flank to take it inside past Barrett as O'Neill's disguised run on the outside split the Shels defender.
And Doherty's left footed strike from inside the penalty area was saved well by the feet of Kearns. Shane Farrell clipped a ball in from the right wing towards Mattie Smith on the edge of the box on 25 minutes but his first time strike was tame and Maher managed to control it with his feet.
Shelbourne missed a glorious chance to level the game on 33 minutes. The impressive Farrell found the well-timed run of Moylan who got in behind Shane McEleney.
The Shels attacker turned the City centre half with a neat flick but his low strike from a tight angle was saved superbly by the feet of Maher. The rebound fell kindly to substitute Leavy inside the six yard box with the goal at his mercy but somehow the Reading loanee blazed it over the bar.
Five minutes later, however, it was Derry who could've doubled the lead when Patching slipped the ball into the feet of O'Neill who did well to muscle off his marker but from 12 yards he fired over the bar.
The North Dublin outfit had an early chance from a free-kick in the torrential rain as Tyreke Wilson tested Maher with a well struck effort but the City keeper got enough of his gloves to the ball to avert it from danger.
The home side were dealt a huge blow on 49 minutes as the experienced Barrett was shown a second yellow card after his flailing arm struck McGonigle on the face as the Dubliners were down to 10 men.
Shels manager Duff was shown a yellow card on 62 minutes after remonstrating from the sidelines when the match official allowed Doherty's foul on Mark Coyle go unpunished on the halfway line.
McGonigle brilliantly controlled a long punt upfield from Maher before playing the ball into the path of Doherty who made the run over his left shoulder but the fullback's strike was saved superbly by Kearns who put it behind for a corner with five minutes left.
Shels substitute Kyle Robinson went down inside the Derry penalty area under the challenge of Patrick McEleney but the referee waved play-on and the final whistle went much to the delight of Higgins and the City bench.
Shelbourne: Kearns; J. Wilson (Leavy 23), Barrett, Byrne (Lunney h-t), Griffin; Farrell, Caffrey (Coyle h-t), Molloy, T. Wilson (Ledwidge 79); Moylan, (Robinson 79), Smith; Subs Not Used - van der Sluis, Quinn, McManus, Robinson, Toure, Ledwidge.
Derry City: Maher; Coll, S. McEleney, McJannet, Doherty; Graydon, Diallo (Boyce 80), P McEleney, O'Neill (McEneff 72); Patching; McGonigle (C. Kavanagh 90); Subs Not Used - Ryan, B. Kavanagh, Ward, McLaughlin, Mullen, McKay.
Referee - Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan)