League Report: Derry City 2 – 1 St. Patrick’s Athletic

Danny Mullen got the injury time winner for Derry City against St. Pats

Danny Mullen got the injury time winner for Derry City against St. Pats Credit: Martin Doherty (ETPhotos)

Substitute Danny Mullen was Derry City’s hero late on as he scored an injury-time winner to complete a come-from-behind win over St Patrick’s Athletic at the Brandywell.

The match ignited into life after the interval with Ruari Keating pouncing on a defensive error to score for St Pats.  Midway through the second half, Pat Hoban hung in the air, heading home Will Patching’s corner to equalise.  Then came the late, late show as Michael Duffy pounded down the left wing, pulling a perfect pass into Mullen’s path, the Scot finishing sublimely to earn the Candystripes a dramatic three points. 

This was a classic game of two halves with the first being notable for its uneventfulness, while the second had far more chances for both teams to potentially win it. 

Three points extends Derry’s unbeaten start while Pat’s, following last week’s defeat to Bohemians, must now stew on successive league losses. 

Having only conceded one goal apiece so far this season, it perhaps was unsurprising to see defences dominate the opening 20 minutes.  Amidst the caginess, centre-forwards, Hoban and Keating, ironically given they’d both go on to score, were starved of the ball early on. 

In a stop-start introduction to the game, Derry and Pats seemed to both be more concerned about making a mistake rather than going on the front foot. On a rare night when champions Shamrock Rovers weren’t in action (due to snow in Dublin causing their game and Bohs match with Dundalk being postponed), three points would have been a massive statement for either’s title ambitions. 

Alongside an injury-inflicted midfield reshuffle, home manager Ruaidhri Higgins handed starts to Doherty and Daniel Kelly, the latter for his first since signing from Dundalk.    Pats boss Jon Daly gave former Derry winger Brandon Kavanagh a first start at his old stomping ground. 

Half an hour passed before some sparks flew between the Athletics’ experienced midfielder Chris Forrester and Hoban. The former eavesdropping on Derry’s tactical huddle when Brian Maher went down needing attention and he was unceremoniously bundled out by Hoban, who picked up a yellow card among the mildly ensuing argy-bargy. 

That fired the Inchicore men into action. Swede Carl Sjoberg was found on the right wing by Kian Leavy’s luscious pass.  Sjoberg’s sweeping cross was sent into the box, having got past Doherty, just evading Keating’s run in the middle. 

In first-half injury-time, Adam O’Reilly almost played Hoban through the left side of the box, the midfielder though marginally overhitting the pass. 

Three minutes into the second half, a backtracking Doherty undersold his back-pass to Mark Connolly out on the right-hand touchline. The ever-alert Keating intercepted, strode into the right hand-side of the box, unleashing a viciously accurate finish beyond goalkeeper Brian Maher. It was Keating’s first league goal for the Saints and an undeniably important one. 

In response, home right-back Ronan Boyce released Kelly whose tame cross was easily plucked by Pat’s netminder Marcelo Pitaluga. An edgy Derry atmosphere was reenforced by the visiting fan’s strong vocal support. 

Higgins turned to his bench and was rewarded as substitute Paul McMullan injected fresh life into the Candystripe attac. His chipped cross hacked behind desperately by Pat’s captain Joe Redmond. From the resulting corner, Will Patching’s wickedly swirling delivery was glanced home by an expertly timed Hoban header, having held off Luke Turner – the goal sending the home faithful duly wild. 

Confidence up, Michael Duffy drove down the left wing in Derry’s next attack. With Hoban lurking threateningly, Anto Breslin was calmness personified in clearing the cross from danger. 

Daly opted for experience, adding Jason McClelland for the final stages as his keeper collected a booking for time-wasting. 

McClelland almost linked with Forrester late on but in a tense ending, most noteworthy was former Candystripe Cian Kavanagh on for Keating, being booked at his old club. 

Four minutes were added and in the first of those the lively McMullan fizzed a teasing effort in which Pitaluga did well to hold onto. 

But just a minute later, Duffy made the difference, weaving his way along the left flank, firing a pinpoint cross into the path of substitute Danny Mullen. He took a touch to steady himself before magnificently finding the top corner from inside the penalty area.

If the equaliser had sent the home crowd into delirium, then birthday boy Mullen’s fantastic finish took the roof off as their side completed the comeback.   

This game commences the start of a relentless schedule with both teams back in action on Monday and Friday. Derry travel to Tallaght to face Shamrock Rovers in another important tussle before hosting Waterford here in a week’s time. Pats meanwhile travel to the RSC to face the Blues on Monday, returning to Richmond Park to host Dundalk next Friday.

Derry City:  Brian Maher; Ronan Boyce, Mark Connolly, Cameron McJannet ©, Ben Doherty, Will Patching, Jordan McEneff (Paul McMullan 55), Adam O’Reilly, Daniel Kelly (Danny Mullen 82), Pat Hoban, Michael Duffy (Shane McEleney 90+3).

Subs not used: Tadgh Ryan (gk), Ciaran Coll, Sam Todd, Tiernan McGinty, Sean Patton, Luke O’Donnell. 

Booked: Pat Hoban (32). 

St Patrick’s Athletic: Marcelo Pitaluga; Anto Breslin (Mason Melia 90+4), Joe Redmond ©, Conor Keeley, Jamie Lennon, Chris Forrester, Kian Leavy (Aaron Bolger 83), Brandon Kavanagh (Jason McClelland 77), Carl Sjoberg (Alex Nolan 90+4), Luke Turner, Ruari Keating (Cian Kavanagh 83). 

Subs not used: Daniel Rogers (gk), Kieran Freeman, Arran Pettifer, Ryan McLaughlin. 

Booked: Marcelo Pitaluga (80), Cian Kavanagh (85). 

Referee: Robert Harvey. 

Attendance: 2,914. 

extratime.com Player of the Match: Danny Mullen (Derry City).