After a 21-week long hiatus, football was back, albeit without supporters as Sligo Rovers put in a stellar performance, earning all three points as they travelled to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium to take on Derry City.
A header from Kyle Callan-McFadden in the first half and an excellent penalty from Ronan Coughlan in the second gave the Bit O’ Red their first points of the season as Derry largely disappointed.
A brisk opening ten minutes saw both teams attempt to impose themselves on the game by retaining possession, but it was the home side who edged it without either side creating a clear-cut opportunity.
It took just 19 minutes for the opening goal to come. Perhaps slightly against the run of play an in-swinging corner from the right taken by Regan Donelon found the head of Kyle Callan-McFadden who guided his header beyond Peter Cherrie in the Derry goal.
The goal gave the away side confidence and to their credit, they set up well behind the ball forcing Derry out wide when in possession. David Cawley with his mercurial passing ability continually looked for the searching runs of Ronan Coughlan in behind the Candystripe’s defence.
City had much of the ball in the second part of the first half but created very little. Walter Figueira cut a lonely figure up top for Declan Devine’s men at times with the real danger coming through the bright Stephen Mallon.
Arguably the better chances fell the way of the away side. 26 minutes in Eoin Toal made a good block from Coughlan and just three minutes later new signing Ryan De Vries dispossessed Conor McCormack in the right back position before hitting a tame effort comfortably at Cherrie.
Joe Thomson an ex-Celtic player looked to drop deep and influence the game from deeper areas of the pitch, but the home side really lacked a creative spark in the final part of the pitch. The Bit ‘O Red central defensive partnership of Callan-McFadden and Garry Buckley dealt relatively comfortably with the City attacking players.
Right on the stroke of halftime the bright Coughlan looked to have his heels clipped on the edge of the box or maybe just inside the box, but referee Paul McLaughlin waved away any protests.
Liam Buckley would have been the happier of the two managers going into the break as his side looked to be better off with spending more time on the training ground working on their defensive shape.
Just five minutes into the second half City centre-half Toal was adjudged to have brought down De Vries in the box as Cawley looked to send in a cross from the right. It looked like a good decision and Coughlan stuttered his run up before coolly dispatching his penalty low into the bottom right corner.
The home side acted quickly introducing Patrick Ferry and Jack Malone for Ciaron Harkin and Conor Clifford, but Derry continued to look blunt.
In the 70th minute a searching ball from Ciaran Coll down the left saw Gerardo Bruna through on goal as Ed McGinty came rushing out of the Sligo goal but the Argentine’s lobbed effort drifted harmlessly over the crossbar.
Figueira had a shout for a penalty in the 77th minute after a slight defensive mix-up in the Rovers box under a challenge from McGinty. However, referee McLaughlin waved play on once more.
As the clock ticked towards 90, City looked bereft of ideas. Long passes forward were repelled by the Sligo defence as they continued to drop deeper.
With just five minutes to go Bruna whipped a free kick from around 22 yards out over the bar which summed up the poor attacking play from the Candystripes.
Just as the clock struck 90, Figueira did well cutting in from the left but his effort flashed wide of the far post.
A superb three points for Sligo Rovers on the road as Liam Buckley will hope to continue this form going forward after losing all four of their opening games especially with the exciting signing of Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe to enter the fold.
Declan Devine will hope that their new recruits such as Adam Hammill, James Akatunde and Ibrahima Meite will provide some fresh impetus especially going forward as the games will come thick and fast.
This was the first game broadcast under the new streaming service, watchloi.ie, and it must be said it was very encouraging. The camera angles, the replays and the quality of the stream was of an extremely high standard while Adrian Eames did an excellent job on commentary. Everyone associated should be commended for their efforts.
It is great to have football back.
Derry City: Peter Cherrie (GK); Conor McCormack (C), Ally Gilchrist (Mark McChrystal 46), Eoin Toal, Ciaran Coll; Ciaron Harkin (Patrick Ferry 57), Joe Thomson, Conor Clifford (Jack Malone 57), Gerardo Bruna, Stephen Mallon; Walter Figueira
Subs not Used: Nathan Gartside (GK), Colm Horgan, Ronan Boyce, Michael Harris
Yellow Cards: Conor Clifford (6), Eoin Toal (50).
Red Cards: None.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty (GK); Darragh Noone, Garry Buckley (John Russell 73), Kyle Callan-McFadden (C), Regan Donelon; Niall Morahan, David Cawley (C), Will Seymore; Jesse Devers (Darren Collins 80), Ryan De Vries; Ronan Coughlan
Subs not Used: Luke McNicholas (GK), Mark Byrne, Ronan Murray, Scott Lynch, John Dunleavy.
Yellow Cards: John Russell (80), Darren Collins (83), Regan Donelon (89).
Red Cards: None.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ronan Coughlan (Sligo Rovers).