Dundalk FC's Patrick McEleney and Barry McNamee of Derry City during tonight's SSE Airtricity League Premier Division encounter at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. (Pic: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
Derry City 2-2 Dundalk FC
Dundalk FC were left stunned as Derry City grabbed a 95th-minute equaliser to end the defending champions’ eight-game winning streak in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, after the most dramatic of finishes at The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on Friday night.
Lilywhites boss Vinny Perth had made two big decisions before kick-off with Patrick Hoban and Jamie McGrath only named among the substitutes, as Georgie Kelly was preferred to lead the line.
That may have been with a view to their UEFA Champions League campaign getting underway next week, and even with a new-look line-up, they still began brightly.
Andy Boyle threatened in the opening moments on his second coming, but it was a first half where – despite tallying six corners – Dundalk failed to seriously trouble their former league-winning goalkeeper Peter Cherrie.
However, it was their own mistake which cost them before half-time as Chris Shields made a rare error to allow David Parkhouse to pounce for the breakthrough.
After Dundalk had a goal disallowed for offside six minutes into the second half, Shields’ determination earned an equaliser before the hour-mark as he provided the assist for Kelly to fire in at the front post.
It was Kelly’s fourth start of the season in all competitions and he continued his impressive goal-per-start ratio to restore parity against his ex-club.
Dundalk were dominant in the second half, and Cherrie had to be alert to deny McGrath with just over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.
The Oriel Park outfit thought they had won it in the 91st minute when Hoban met Duffy’s corner with a bullet header. However, with virtually the last kick of the game, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe bundled in from a corner to leave the Lilywhites in shock.
Still, the result saw them maintain their eight-point advantage at the summit as second-placed Shamrock Rovers were unable to break down Sligo Rovers despite dominating at Tallaght Stadium.
Perth had selected his side with perhaps one eye on next Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League first qualifying round first-leg clash with Riga at Oriel Park.
The Dundalk head coach made four changes from Monday’s easy win against Waterford, with record goalscorer Hoban dropping out along with McGrath, Seán Hoare and Daniel Kelly.
Boyle – wearing the no44 jersey – made his first appearance since returning to the club, while Robbie Benson made his first start since the opening day of the season. John Mountney and Georgie Kelly also came in.
Meanwhile, Derry – on the back of a four-game unbeaten run – made just one change from their scoreless draw at Bohemians earlier in the week. Darren McCauley, who recently returned to his hometown club from Inverness Caledonian Thistle, made his debut at the expense of Gerardo Bruna.
Dundalk – undefeated at The Brandywell since 2012 – earned an early corner and Boyle maybe should have done better after connecting with Michael Duffy’s corner, but the header was straight at Cherrie. Patrick McEleney then unleashed a dipping shot from distance that went narrowly off target.
That was a bright start from the visitors, but they had an escape past the quarter-hour when Junior just failed to connect with Parkhouse’s delivery. As Derry came more into it, Junior almost had another opportunity on 22 minutes but Dean Jarvis defended well.
Dundalk forced a number of corners in the first half, and they will have been disappointed not to have caused more damage from that source. From one of Duffy’s deliveries in the 37th minute, Kelly had a free header but it was comfortable for Cherrie.
Derry then struck the front when Shields delayed in possession and Parkhouse stole in to fire to the net, with Dundalk’s protests for a foul on their midfielder waved away.
Dundalk regrouped and started the second half with intent. They thought they had an equaliser in the 51st minute when Seán Gannon’s deep cross was headed down by Duffy with Kelly appearing to finish it to the net, but the linesman’s flag was raised to rule it out.
However, there was no denying and no doubt about the scorer six minutes later. Shields made amends for his earlier error as he drove at the home defence, and after regaining possession, he got to the by-line and pulled the ball back for Kelly to blast in at the near post.
Perth threw on McGrath and Hoban in the 69th minute, and moments after being introduced, the latter headed over from Mountney’s cross.
On 74 minutes, Gannon raided down the right and delivered for McGrath whose header was tipped over the bar by Cherrie.
Daniel Kelly came on in Perth’s final throw of the dice for three points and he almost provided a way through ten minutes from time, but his dangerous cross was well cut out by Jamie McDonagh.
Dundalk’s pressure finally paid off as they hit the front in the first minute of injury-time when Duffy’s corner was met by a bullet header from Hoban, which looked to be the match-winning moment.
However, with almost 95 minutes on the clock, Derry forced a corner, and from it Junior found the net as Declan Devine’s men once again proved a thorn in Dundalk’s side.
Derry City: Peter Cherrie; Jamie McDonagh, Eoin Toal, Ally Gilchrist, Ciarán Coll; Ciaron Harkin, Greg Sloggett; Darren McCauley (Darren Cole 66), Barry McNamee (Gerardo Bruna 83), Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe; David Parkhouse (Conor Davis 72)
Subs not used: Nathan Gartside (gk), Mark McChrystal, Aidy Delap, Eoghan Stokes
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Seán Gannon, Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle, Dean Jarvis; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Jamie McGrath 69); John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 78), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; Georgie Kelly (Patrick Hoban 69)
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Brian Gartland, Dane Massey, Cameron Dummigan
Referee: Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan)