Will Patching penalty ends Derry City's seven match winless run
UCD 0 Derry City 1
DERRY CITY netted nine times past UCD on two occasions this season but needed just the one to clinch a precious victory at the Belfield.
Will Patching's 53rd minute penalty kick decided the third meeting between the teams and ended a seven match winless run for the Candy Stripes - a sequence of games which spanned almost two months!
It was far from straight forward against a resolute UCD side who could so easily have taken the lead in the first half through Sean Brennan.
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Jamie McGonigle was denied by a stunning save from Cian Moore at the end of the first half while Ciaran Coll headed narrowly wide of the post.
Those were among Derry's best chances in the match and the nervous tension among the travelling City support was growing until McGonigle was barged over the box by Michael Gallagher.
There was only one man for the occasion and up stepped Patching to coolly tuck away his ninth goal of the campaign.
Ruaidhri Higgins made just one change from the team held 1-1 by Drogheda last weekend with Joe Thomson returning to the starting line-up to replace the injured Cameron Dummigan (foot).
The Dubliners were the first to register a shot on target on eight minutes when Dylan Duffy received the ball to feet inside the Derry final third and his low strike was gathered safely by Maher.
Derry were comfortably in possession of the ball but it was UCD who threatened once again on 17 minutes after a quick break.
When Mark Dignam attempted to catch Maher unsighted with a curling strike outside the box, the Derry stopper was untroubled and saved low to his near post.
Derry were bossing the ball but struggled to find a way through a stubborn UCD defence with the students deploying a regimental five at the back.
The visitors won a series of corners and from Patching's delivery from the left on 32 minutes towards the back post, Ciaran Coll's downward header was directed the wrong side of the post. It was the closest Derry had come to finding the target.
Moments later UCD worked a brilliant chance to go ahead when Duffy outmuscled McJannett inside the Derry penalty area before pulling the ball back into the path of Sean Brennan who fired harmlessly over from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
It was a let-off for the Candy Stripes whose injury woes threatened to worsen as the play was stopped for Derry physio Michael Hegarty to attend to Shane McEleney who went down clutching his leg. Thankfully the big centre half was able to continue.
Jamie McGonigle was booked for a rash challenge on Michael Gallagher 30 yards from the Derry goal. It was a tackle borne out of frustration.
However, at the other end the Derry strike almost broke the deadlock as he cut inside on to his right foot and his bullet strike was turned over the bar with a magnificent save from Cian Moore to ensure the teams went in at the break on level terms.
UCD's Sean Brennan, one of the smallest men on the pitch, rose highest inside the six yard box but his close range header was saved by Maher.
McGonigle went down inside the box when Jack Keaney appeared to tug him back but the referee was unimpressed and waved play on.
Smith did brilliantly to work a chance for Kavanagh who took a touch 12 yards from goal allowing the UCD defence to recover and Dara Keane made a superb sliding challenge to block the shot.
Denied a penalty moments earlier, Derry capitalised on a needless foul from UCD right back Gallagher who barged over McGonigle who was racing away from goal from inside the penalty area.
This time, match official Ray Matthews didn't hesitate and pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Patching who staggered his run-up before cooly slotting into the corner of the net to give Derry the advantage.
McGonigle wrestled off the challenge of Keaney on the right side of the UCD 18 yard box before attempting to find the far corner of the net with a curling strike which sailed just wide.
Thomson had a chance to double Derry's lead when a miscued clearance fell to the Scot but his first time effort screwed wide of the post.
UCD sub, Thomas Lonergan ran at the Derry defence before testing Maher with a shot from 25 yards but the Derry keeper saved comfortably.
At the other end Derry were pressing for that second goal and McEleney shifted onto his left foot, making space 20 yards from the UCD goal but his shot was straight at Moore.
It was a nervy finale for City as UCD pressed and just before the four minutes of stoppage time was signalled substitute Adam Vernon's ferocious strike from distance was deflected agonisingly past the post.
Sub, Evan McLaughlin was on the pitch a matter of seconds before he found himself with a chance in front of goal but his shot was saved by Moore.
It mattered little as City clinched a vital win to end a woeful run of results. Higgins won't be bothered with the performance with the win taking Derry to within a point of second placed Dundalk.
It was far from a vintage performance from the Brandywell men but the three points were all that mattered as that winless run was finally ended.
UCD: Moore: Todd, Gallagher (Ryan 66), Higgins (Lonergan 57), Osam, Keaney, Keane, Brennan (Nolan 66), Caffrey, Dignam (Verdon 66), Duffy (Norris 85); Subs Not Used - Healy, Dunne, Bowden, Byrne.
Derry City: Maher: Porter, McEleney, McJannet, Coll; Kavanagh (Lafferty 88), P. McEleney, Patching, Thomson, Smith (E. McLaughlin 93); McGonigle (Akintunde 73); Subs Not Used - Gartside, Malone, O. McLaughlin, McCallion, Mullan.
Referee - Ray Matthews.