DERRY CITY’s away form has been nothing short of superb this season but Friday night’s victory over Shelbourne at Brandywell will have outshone those results for manager, Declan Devine.
The four goal romp marked the ‘Candy Stripes’ first home win of the 2013 Airtricity Premier Division campaign and Devine will be delighted to get that particular monkey off his back.
If the club are serious about a tilt at the title this season then addressing their poor home record which dogged their league campaign last year will be paramount.
Following a home loss to Sligo (0-1) and a draw against Drogheda United (1-1) from their opening two games at Brandywell, it was vital to finally get off the mark at the Lone Moor Road venue.
And given the impressive away win against Cork City (0-1) last Sunday, Devine had been vocal about the necessity to follow that result with another three points on Good Friday.
A first half strike from in-form hitman, Rory Patterson got the ball rolling for the home side before a second half own goal from Shelbourne’s Paul Crowley swung the game dramatically in favour of the hosts.
Michael Rafter then netted the pick of the bunch with a sensational shot off the underside of the crossbar with two minutes to go before Mark Griffin’s injury time penalty put the gloss on the win.
However few would have predicted such an emphatic win at the interval and Derry certainly rode their luck, particularly in the first half hour.
Shane McEleney survived a penalty appeal when he appeared to handle the ball inside the area but referee, Dave McKeon waved away the protests.
Nine minutes later and McEleney was again at the centre of controversy when bringing goal-bound Shelbourne striker, Philly Hughes crashing to the ground as he raced through on goal.
The Brandywell faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief when the match official waved a yellow card when he might have flashed red.
In the end, there was no doubting that Derry were worthy winners and they will go into tomorrow’s fixture against Bray Wanderers in buoyant mood.
Indeed, there were plenty of positives from the performance. Patterson netted his fifth league goal of the season while Rafter and Griffin both got their Brandywell accounts up and running.
Special mention must also go to Letterkenny native Sean Houston who was making his home debut and he proved a real attacking threat from midfield before being forced off with an injury in the second half.
Neither side could get into their stride in the opening stages but it was the home lot who appeared the more likely in to break the deadlock when they gradually churned through the gears.
Barry McNamee was lively on the left wing and when he found Rafter in space on the edge of the area, the Tipperary man’s strike was palmed away by Niall Burdon on four minutes.
Derry were fortunate not to concede a penalty on 21 minutes when Dean Kelly crossed into the danger area and Shane McEleney appeared to lean towards the ball with his arm. Shelbourne appealed furiously but in vain as the match referee waved ‘play-on’.
When Rafter was fouled on the Shels’ 18 yard line five minutes later, Patterson drove his powerful free-kick narrowly over the crossbar.
McEleney was once again in the thick of the action on the half hour mark when Barry Molloy’s pass was intercepted by Philly Hughes and the Derry defender brought the bustling striker to ground with a clumsy challenge.
The referee could easily have shown red as McEleney appeared be the last man but, with Simon Madden and Ryan McBride in support, the Co.Meath official opted to caution the defender.
It was another lucky escape for the home lot and Shelbourne were dealt a cruel blow two minutes later as Patterson side-stepped his marker and curled into the top corner from eight yards after good work on the wing by McNamee.
The ‘Candy Stripes’ could have doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time when Rafter steered the ball into the path of Ruaidhri Higgins who was well placed on the six yard box, but the midfielder blasted over.
Derry began the second half with more purpose and Rafter came close when getting on to the end of Thomas Crawley’s cross but the ball nestled on the roof of the net.
Jack Memery then made a superb last ditch tackle as Patterson prepared to bear down on goal on 55 minutes but the ball broke to Rafter who drilled his shot just wide of the target.
Paul Crowley should have equalised on the hour when Mark Leech found him free in the six yard box but the midfielder headed straight into the hands of Gerard Doherty.
At the other end Higgins found Patterson with a superb ball on the right wing and when the striker drilled across the goalmouth Crowley bundled it into his own net.
With time running out, Rafter netted a spectacular strike after latching onto Higgins’ pass as he blasted his powerful strike off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
The night got worse for Shelbourne when Memery brought Madden down for a penalty in stoppage time and, even though Burdon got a hand to Mark Griffin’s spot-kick, the ball spun agonisingly into the net to complete a comfortable win for the Devine’s troops.
Derry City – Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride, Thomas Crawley; Michael Rafter, Ruaidhri Higgins, Barry Molloy, Sean Houston (Patrick McEleney 70), Barry McNamee; Rory Patterson (Mark Griffin 73); Subs Not Used – James Gallagher, Conall Kelly, Ryan Curran, Michael Duffy, Dermot McCaffrey.
Shelbourne – Niall Burdon; Robert Cornwell, Ian Ryan, Brian Shorthall, Jack Memery; Dean Kelly (C. Mooney 79), Robert Bayly, Stephen Hurley, Paul Crowley (Sean Brennan 70), Mark Leech; Philly Hughes (Darren Tinnelly 79); Subs Not Used – Eoin Comerford, Alex Prizeman, Adam O’Connor, Pat Flynn.
Referee – Dave McKeon (Meath)