Airtricity League wrap: Derry loosen grip at the top as Rovers win fourth straight

Karl O’Sullivan puts his former club to the sword; McCormack the key for St Pat’s

Drogheda 1 Derry City 1

Derry City’s grip on top spot of the Premier Division is loosening as another slip up from Ruaidhri Higgins’ pacesetters saw their lead at the summit cut to just one point.

Shamrock Rovers are in form and poised to pounce after another victory on Monday night. They have now made up five points on leaders Derry over the course of just 72 hours. It is early days of course but Higgins will want to regain momentum sooner rather than later.

Drogheda have recovered well from a dispiriting start to the season. Three wins and four draws in the nine games since has ensured they are ensconced among a clutch of teams ranging from the European places to just outside the relegation places separated by just four points.

On manager Kevin Doherty’s birthday, United produced a very positive result by the Boyne. They began the game with the confidence of a side unbeaten in five games and buoyed by witnessing a first chink in Derry City armour as pierced by Shelbourne on Friday.

If common consensus was that Drogheda should beware the wounded animal, they were fearless in the opening stages. The league leaders did grow into the game as the first half wore on.

Danny Lafferty headed wide before Joe Thomson scored the opener. His thunderous effort from range left Sam Long with no chance. The Drogheda goalkeeper denied Derry a second minutes later with an extraordinary point blank save from James Akintunde.

Games hinge on such moments and rather than Derry holding a two-goal advantage, United were almost immediately on terms. Ryan Brennan’s header found the net after Evan Weir’ volley bounced up conveniently in the area.

The onrushing Long denied compatriot Matty Smith and Will Patching twice forced comfortable stops from the Scottish Under-21 goalkeeper. Shane McEleney’s header came off the upright late on as a winner proved elusive.

Drogheda United: Long; Quinn, Roughan, Massey, Weir; Deegan, Heeney (Cowan 86); Grimes (Poynton 61), Brennan (Nugent 69), Rooney; Lyons.

Derry City: Gartside; S McEleney, Toal, McJannet; Boyce, Thomson (Kavanagh 68), Dummigan, Lafferty (McGonigle 69); Patching, Smith; Akintunde (P McEleney 68).

Referee: Alan Patchell

UCD 1 St Patrick’s Athletic 2

Teenager Ben McCormack scored and provided an assist for Joe Redmond’s late, late winner as lacklustre St Pat’s came from behind to earn a first win in five games at the UCD Bowl.

The result was harsh on the Students who remain rooted to the foot of the table without a win in 11 games. Defender Redmond struck with just a minute of normal time to play, shooting to the net from McCormack’s corner.

Both sides made five changes from defeats on Friday, the stand-outs being UCD winger Liam Kerrigan along with Saints’ striker Eoin Doyle dropping to the bench.

Despite owning the ball from the kick-off, and winning five corners, St Pat’s trooped off at the break without having worked Students’ 19-year-old goalkeeper, Kian Moore, on his debut.

The only time the UCD defence looked worried came a minute before the interval when Tunde Owolabi’s header from skipper Ian Bermingham’s cross dropped wide of the far post.

Though St Pat’s introduced Eoin Doyle and Billy King midway through the second half, it was UCD who finally sparked the game to life on 70 minutes with the lead goal.

The lively Collie Whelan found a pocket of space to pick out Dylan Duffy. With the winger’s low drive merely parried by Joseph Anang, Whelan sprinted in to drive home the rebound for his second goal of the season.

The lead lasted just five minutes though, as 19-year-old McCormack won a penalty when fouled by fellow substitute Kerrigan. And though Moore went the right way to parry Eoin Doyle’s spot kick with his legs, McCormack drilled home the loose ball.

UCD: Moore; Gallagher, Boore, Todd, Osam; Farrell (Ryan 72), Brennan (Kerrigna, h-t); Gill (Duffy 53), Verdon (Higgins h-t), Caffrey (Dignam 64); Whelan.

St Patrick's Athletic: Anang; Scott, Redmond, Grivosti, Bermingham; Burns (King 64), Forrester, McClelland (McCormack 72), M. Doyle; Coughlan (O'Reilly 81), Owolabi (E. Doyle 64).

Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo).

Shamrock Rovers 1 Dundalk 0

Danny Mandroiu struck the all-important goal at Tallaght Stadium to give defending champions Shamrock Rovers their fourth win on the bounce in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

In front of a crowd of 5,532, Mandroiu fired home on 66 minutes to break the stubborn resistance offered up by a hard-working Dundalk side. This victory also extends their unbeaten top-flight run to seven games and keeps the heat up on fellow title challengers Derry City.

The Hoops were given an early scare in this game as Dundalk attacker Daniel Kelly headed against the crossbar off Keith Ward’s enticing set-piece delivery in the fourth minute.

While this was a let-off, Rovers largely dominated the remainder of the opening period. Dundalk netminder Nathan Shepperd was at full stretch to deny Sean Hoare on 11 minutes before Sean Gannon, Dylan Watts and Mandroiu all went close for the south Dubliners.

It was a relatively quiet half at the opposite end for Alan Mannus, but the veteran Hoops custodian was out quickly to turn away another Kelly opportunity with his feet on 37 minutes

Although the deadlock remained unbroken at the interval, there was a sense that it wasn’t going to stay this way for the full 90 minutes.

Rovers boss Stephen Bradley introduced Barry Cotter, Andy Lyons and Aidomo Emakhu off the bench just past the hour mark, but it was two of his starting players who ultimately carved Dundalk open. After racing away from Lilywhites skipper Brian Gartland off Jack Byrne’s precise through ball, the raiding Mandroiu made no mistake with a cool finish past the helpless Shepperd.

Emakhu and Mandroiu had opportunities to extend the Hoops’ lead, but with Dundalk losing Gartland to a second yellow card in the closing moments, they emerged with a deserved triumph in the end.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Hoare, Lopes, Grace; Gannon (Cotter 61), Watts (Towell 78), O'Neill, Farrugia (Lyons 61); Mandroiu, Byrne (McCann 84); Greene (Emakhu 61).

Dundalk: Shepperd; Macari, Connolly, Gartland, Leahy; Bone, Doyle (O'Kane, 79 mins); Sloggett (Hoban 71), Ward (McMillan 71), Adams (Bradley 61); Kelly (Martin 79).

Referee: R Matthews (Westmeath).

Finn Harps 0 Sligo Rovers 1

Former Finn Harps player Karl O’Sullivan scrambled home what proved to be the winner as Sligo Rovers notched up their first win in six outings in the north-west derby at Finn Park. Harps are still seeking a first home win of the season, and had to play second fiddle to Rovers for much of a game that only came to life in brief spurts.

Mark McGinley made a trio of saves in the first half to deny David Cawley, Mark Byrne - after a great through ball from the bustling Cawley - and also Max Mata with the follow-up.

But Rovers took the lead on 26 minutes with the ubiquitous Cawley again involved as his ball across a crowded goalmouth eventually came off the lurking O’Sullivan after Regan Donelan was unable to clear.

Harps boss Ollie Horgan may have given a stern team-talk at the break but his side continued to struggle for much of the second half, and the Bit O’ Red continued to look the better bet to alter the scoreline.

However, Harps finally injected some zest into the game as it went into the final 15 minutes when substitute Luke Rudden had a number of efforts blocked. At the other end Jordan Hamilton forced McGinley into a fine save ten minutes from time and Niall Morahan fired just wide.

In between, the home side missed a glorious chance to equalise on 84 minutes when Filip Mahaljevic found Mark Timlin inside the box but he screwed his shot wide.

Harps piled on the pressure late and it was helter-skelter stuff inside the Sligo goalmouth but Liam Buckley’s side held on.

Finn Harps: McGinley; Boyle, Alkan, Slevin, Donelan; Hery, McNamee, Connolly (Rudden 18), Timlin; Mihaljevic, Mahdy (Devers 69).

Sligo Rovers: McGinty; Horgan, Pijnaker, Blaney, Kirk; Morahan, McDonnell; O'Sullivan, Cawley (Bolger 86), Byrne (Fitzgerald 75); Mata (Hamilton, 59).

Referee: P McLaughlin (Monaghan).

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