League Report: Sligo Rovers 0 - 0 Derry City

Patrick McEleney has established himself as a real leader for Derry City in recent times

Patrick McEleney went off injured for Derry City in the first half Credit: John-Paul McGinley (ETPhotos)

Sligo Rovers frustrated Derry City once again at The Showgrounds on Saturday night as the Candystripes were held to a scoreless stalemate by the Bit O’Red. 

Wearing a new-look navy away strip, Derry controlled the game’s pace yet were disrupted by bad-looking injuries to club captain Patrick McEleney and Cameron Dummigan.  In short, their midfield engine room endured one too many tweaks to provide the front men, Pat Hoban in particular, with a litany of scoring chances.

Their best moments came just after half-time. Home goalkeeper Ed McGinty brilliantly kept out a Michael Duffy zinger before performing wonders to shovel Mark Connolly’s header away from goal from the following set piece. 

From last Friday’s opening fixtures, Sligo started as they were at Bohemians.  Derry’s manager, Ruaidhri Higgins, changed two as defender Sam Todd and skipper Patrick McEleney replaced Ben Doherty and Jordan McEneff who were both benched.

Two of Derry’s retained created the first meaningful opportunity.  Forward Hoban drifted out left, pulling the ball back for Will Patching’s run into the penalty box.  Under pressure though faced by advancing Sligo netminder McGinty, Patching skied his shot over the crossbar from close range.

Having failed to score in last season’s two equally infuriating 1-0 losses at The Showgrounds, Derry set a demonic early attacking pace as they sought atonement.  Tasked with containing the visitors’ left winger Duffy, Sligo right-back John Ross Wilson started steadily in an intriguing one-on-one touchline duel.

Patching’s miscue aside, the first 20 minutes were largely incident-free. Sligo’s scorers from Dalymount Park Reece Hutchinson and Fabrice Hartmann were kept quiet.  Indeed, it was Connor Malley, making his first home start for the Bit O’Red after his move from Dundalk, who drew the first save. He shot straight at Derry goalkeeper Brian Maher from inside the box.

Shortly after, Hartmann fizzed a left-footed free kick narrowly wide after Cameron McJannet got himself in a tizzy, fouling the German to collect a yellow card.  

Five minutes before the break, McEleney to the Candystripes’ angst hobbled from the fray as Adam O’Reilly made an earlier-than-expected appearance with McJannet donning the captain’s armband.

During this interlude, Hoban called a huddle, conferring urgently with Duffy and Patching, like an agitated customer shouting for some service, as the waiters dilly-dally and chit-chat all around him.   Having hardly seen the ball, the striker perhaps had a persuasive case here. 

Momentum, though, proved impossible to build.  The combative Dummigan was also forced to depart following an innocuous-looking tussle with Malley just inside Derry’s attacking half.  That ended with Dummigan stretchered off as McEneff entered the pitch.

After the interval, Hoban’s words seemed heeded as Duffy drove down the left wing, delightfully dummying past Wilson to cross which home skipper, Niall Morahan, lashed up-field.

Fifty-one minutes in and Duffy cut in, curling an effort goalbound, extending McGinty into a fine flying save to his left.  The resulting corner, delivered by Duffy, was met by Connolly’s meaty header. McGinty this time diving left to claw the ball away.

Down the other end, Wilson foraged forward on the right wing, hoiking a cross in which Hartmann headed goalwards only to direct his attempt straight into Maher’s grateful grasp.

Midway through the second half, with momentum stuttering, McJannet cushioned Connolly’s long diagonal left into Duffy’s path.  Duffy’s radar on this rare occasion was askew, sending the ball high over McGinty’s bar to the home crowd’s happiness.

Malley unceremoniously sent Patching sprawling to ground late on but from the left side of his attacking half, Patching powered his free kick just past McGinty’s right-hand post.

McGinty then performed wonders to preserve his clean sheet as Duffy applied the afterburners out wide, fizzing a cross into substitute Daniel Kelly’s path only for McGinty to materialise from nowhere - a miraculous Jack-in-the-box moment from Sligo Rovers’ shot-stopper late on!.

Kelly then turned antagonist as he got booked for diving in injury time as Derry’s desperation for a breakthrough threatened to turn into panic.

From there the match, somewhat fittingly, fizzled out from as Malley completed the final clearance, both teams settling for their point and clean sheet.  Perhaps slightly welcomed by Derry, even, given the costly defeats here last year.  At least, tonight, they didn’t lose it. 

For Sligo, successive draws continue their unbeaten start, they’ll aim for a first win of the campaign against Shelbourne here on Friday night.  Whilst, at the same time, Derry play a potentially important game in the title race as St Patrick’s Athletic visit the Brandywell (both 7:45pm KOs). 

The result means no time in the top flight have won both of their opening games and it is Waterford that end week two top of the table.

Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; John Ross Wilson (Charlie Wiggett 77), Reece Hutchinson, Ellis Chapman (Kailin Barlow 73), Niall Morahan ©, Fabrice Hartmann (William Fitzgerald 73), Oliver Denham, Max Mata (Wilson Waweru 82), Simon Power, Connor Malley, Nando Pijnaker.

Subs not used: Richard Brush (gk), Stefan Radosavljevic, Conor Reynolds, Owen Elding, Daire Patton.

Booked: Oliver Denham (53), Connor Malley (87), Wilson Waweru (90+3).

Derry City: Brian Maher; Ronan Boyce, Sam Todd, Mark Connolly, Cameron McJannet (Ben Doherty 77), Cameron Dummigan (Jordan McEneff 45+2), Patrick McEleney © (Adam O’Reilly 40), Will Patching, Paul McMullan (Daniel Kelly 77), Michael Duffy, Pat Hoban.

Subs not used: Tadgh Ryan (gk), Ciaran Coll, Shane McEleney, Danny Mullen, Sean Patton.

Booked: Cameron McJannet (26), Pat Hoban (54), Mark Connolly (70), Will Patching (81), Daniel Kelly (90+1).

Referee: Kevin O’Sullivan.

Attendance: 4,317

extratime.com Player of the Match: Ed McGinty (Sligo Rovers).