Doherty saves earn Derry a point
St Patrick’s press hard for win late on but have to settle for point
Derry’s Ger Doherty, Ryan McBride and Rory Patterson with Kenny Browne of Patrick’s Athletic. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
St Patrick’s Athletic 1 Derry City 1
A couple of great late saves from Ger Doherty ensured Derry City had something to bring back home with them from Inchicore last night. The goalkeeper’s night went from solid to somewhat spectacular in the dying minutes with two last gasp stops from Christy Fagan preventing the home side from securing the win they pushed so desperately for.
Doherty’s heroics were the highlight of a thrilling end of a rather more modest game. Conan Byrne had given the hosts the lead midway through the first half before Michael Rafter equalised for the northerners. Somehow, though, things went flat after that and it wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that the early sense of urgency returned with the Dubliners piling forward in search of a winner.
City, as it happens, might have grabbed one themselves in the 84th minute when Simon Madden’s cross was headed wide by Ruaidhri Higgins. Moments later Doherty was obliged to take centre stage, with the 31 year-old first saving a low shot from the substitute striker after Ryan McBride has failed to control the ball as it landed, spinning at his feet an then reacting magnificently to prevent a close range Fagan header reaching the target.
Even he, though, was left to count his blessings as Jordan Keegan got his follow up shot wrong and the ball flew harmlessly wide.
It was thrilling stuff but a serious improvement on the bulk of a second half in which both sides had looked for long spells as though they might settle happily enough for the draw.
A shot by Chris Forrester stood out during the first half an hour of the second period as the only occasion on which the home side had really threatened to make something of their dominance. It flew wide even as the home supporters were starting to celebrate a goal but it seemed at least to jolt Liam Buckley’s men into action.
Declan Devine, taking a backing swipe at Shamrock Rovers as much as anything else perhaps, had suggested beforehand that the fans would be in for something of a treat as two exponents of the beautiful game head to head but there were only occasional glimpses of artistry through a first half at least as memorable for the terrible quality of some of its set pieces.
The home side made the stronger start and generally looked the better team but Derry were far from outclassed. Greg Bolger was outstanding through much of the evening for the Dubliners, repeatedly winning the ball or getting on it when it was loose in central midfield and then driving his team forward but Barry Molloy put in a decent shift too as the visitors showed they could scrap a bit when required to.
Up front, Rory Patterson floated about, waiting for an opportunity to make his mark but alongside him Michael Rafter grafted tirelessly, winning quite a few free kicks an loudly bemoaning the ones he reckoned had gotten away.
Despite their best efforts, though, the City defence found itself in trouble more than once as the game settled and were probably a little fortunate to get to the 22nd minute before the locals managed to take the lead.
By then, Doherty had saved solidly from Bolger while Byrne had fired straight at the goalkeeper when he should really have done better but there was little Doherty could have done about the goal.
Madden landed his side in trouble with a failed attempt to clear a long kick out from Dave Ryan and the two central defenders were then reduced to bystanders as Forrester controlled wonderfully, John Russell tried but failed to connect on the turn and, finally, Byrne turned the ball beyond Doherty and into the bottom corner from five yards out.
The home support must have hoped that the breakthrough would provide the foundation for a repeat of last week’s convincing win over Sligo but City showed no signs of lying down so easily and some slack defending helped them back onto things.
Barry McNamee, a bundle of energy out on the right for the visitors, got things started when he fired in an angled towards the six yard box which Rafter couldn’t quite control well enough to finish. Quite happened then, though, was the subject of a heated discussion around the home side’s area as their opponents celebrated the striker’s successful second attempt with Kenny Browne and Ger O’Brien looking the most red faced.
As the night wore on the pair both went some way towards making amends with their contribution to the team’s attacking effort but Doherty simply wasn’t going to be beaten again and so City, to the utter delight of their few travelling fans, got their point.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Ryan; O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Bolger; Byrne (Keegan, 83 mins), Brennan, Russell, Forrester; Flood (Fagan, 59 mins).
Derry City: Doherty; Madden, McBride, S McEleney, Crawley (Caffrey, 54 mins); Higgins, P McEleney, Molloy, McNamee; Rafter (Houston, 73 mins), Patterson.
Referee: P Sutton (Clare).