A Conor Clifford double from the penalty spot gave Derry City and 2-0 win over Waterford at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on Friday evening.
A spot-kick in either half was enough for the home side to claim their first win in four league games and kept alive their outside dream of finishing in the European places.
Waterford, meanwhile, could find themselves dropping out of the top 4 after this defeat if other results don’t go their way.
We went into tonight’s game with Waterford sitting in third while the Candystripes languished in seventh, the opposite of what some fans may have predicted back in February.
The truncated nature of this season meant that the win for the home side leaves them just four points behind the Blues
The first half was an even affair with neither side dominating and both sharing the half-chances that did arrive.
The first chance came in the seventh minute as Ibrahim Meite nicked the ball from Tunimise Sobowale down Derry’s left.
He flashed the ball across goal but nobody was there to convert in the area the striker had vacated to create the chance.
Waterford’s front three of Matty Smith, Ali Coote and Will Fitzgerald looked lively and interchanged well with each other but created few meaningful breakthroughs.
Fitzgerald had claims for a penalty when his cross from the right looked like it might have hit the hand of Derry left-back Ciaran Coll but referee Rob Hennessy waved away claims.
It seemed like it would take a mistake or a bit of smart play to break the deadlock and it was a combination of the two that lead to the first goal.
Walter Figueira used his body cleverly in the box to shield the ball and was fouled from behind by Sobowale on 42 minutes.
Conor Clifford made no mistake, dispatching the penalty sending Brian Murphy the wrong way.
Derry take the lead from the spot— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) October 2, 2020
GOAL | @derrycityfc 1-0 @WaterfordFCie
44 | McCormack slots home from the spot to put the Candystripes ahead
WATCH LIVE | https://t.co/IBZkINEa20#WATCHLOI | ???????????????????????????? ???????????????? ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/uHCI8Gdugs
Derry lost their two previous outings to Sligo and Bohemians respectfully after conceding last-minute goals, so they knew they needed another goal for insurance.
After a bright start to the second half from Waterford, which saw an Ali Coote penalty claim denied, Declan Devine’s men began to find another gear.
Dangerman on the night Figueira showed fine skill, linking with Conor McCormack with a backheel one-two before being fouled.
From the resulting free-kick Meite managed to miss from inside the six-yard box, the ball hitting Murphy in the goal, though it’s not clear how much he knew about it.
The vital second goal did come just moments later however and it came from another penalty. After some great play down the left, Mallon outmuscled Sobowale and crossed to Figueira.
The Englishman shot but was fouled in the process. Clifford dispatched again confidently with a Panenka-style chipped finish.
View from behind the goal for Clifford's second penalty. ???? https://t.co/KToJFZTPmO— Derry City FC (@derrycityfc) October 2, 2020
Waterford pushed on again looking for a lifeline and rang the changes with experience forward Kurtis Byrne among those who were introduced.
Byrne was involved in a potential penalty shout on 78 minutes. Waterford players claimed the striker’s header was blocked by a Derry hand but the replay showed it struck Eoin Toal’s chest.
Any time Waterford made some inroads, the Candstripes hit back with some good play of their own.
Figueira was once again involved. He gave a short option as Ciaron Harkin lined up a corner. The two exchanged passes but Harkins shot went harmlessly over.
When the referee’s assistant put up four added minutes on their board some Derry City fans might have still felt some nerves.
Seven days earlier, they conceded two injury-time goals to Bohemians, and Declan Devine’s men showed a new level of maturity to see out the game and claim all three points.
Derry City: Peter Cherrie; Ciaran Coll, Colm Horgan, Cameron McJannet, Eoin Toal; Conor Clifford, Ciaron Harkin, Stephen Mallon; Walter Figueira , Ibrahim Meite (James Akintunde 70).
Subs not used: Nathan Gartside (gk), Darren Cole, Jake Dunwoody, Adam Hammill, Mark McChrystal.
Booked: Stephen Mallon (9), Conor McCormack (82).
Waterford: Brian Murphy; Robbie McCourt, Jake Davidson, Tyreke Wilson (Darragh Power 53); Niall O'Keeffe (Dean Walsh 84), Will Fitzgerald (Shane Griffin 59), Ali Coote, Olawutunmise Sobowale (Kurtis Byrne 59), Robbie Weir; John Martin, Matty Smith.
Subs not used: Tadhg Ryan (gk), William Longbottom.
Booked: Tyreke Wilson (51), John Martin (70), Niall O'Keeffe (73)
Referee: Robert Hennessy.
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Walter Figueira (Derry City).