by Shane Callaghan
There was defiance. There were deficiencies. There was evidence as to why Drogheda United had triumphed over this Derry City team en route to the Setanta Sports Cup final, and there were frailties which illustrated why Mick Cooke’s men were dealt such a heavy defeat in last week’s showpiece at Tallaght Stadium.
Rory Patterson fired home an 86th minute winner as Derry City sealed a 3-2 victory over a spirited, yet error-prone Drogheda United team at Hunky Dorys Park on Friday evening. This deserved another ending.
The Boynesiders had fought back to overturn a two goal deficit through second-half substitute Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien who scored twice inside the space of a minute to cancel out earlier strikes from Barry McNamee (off the leg of Alan Byrne) and Patterson.
However, as United gathered momentum and stepped up their pursuit of a winner, gaps were left in the Drogs defence and Patterson was on-hand to land a sucker-punch when the Northern Ireland international superbly placed the ball beyond Micheal Schlingermann.
Following on from the victory over Limerick on Tuesday, Cooke’s side displayed further evidence of their mettle to recover from Saturday’s crushing defeat to Shamrock Rovers by dominating the opening 45 minutes.
David Cassidy saw his sweetly-hit volley sail narrowly over Ger Doherty’s crossbar before good link-up play between Ryan Brennan and Gary O’Neill forged another opportunity but the Derry defence threw themselves in the line of fire to keep the Boynesiders goalless.
The visitors briefly rallied and Patterson was given his first glimpse at goal but the forward fired wide from an acute angle.
Alan Byrne and Cathal Brady both missed guilt-edged opportunities to establish a deserved lead before Cooke’s charges paid the penalty for lacklusture finishing Barry McNamee’s corner came off the leg of Alan Byrne and into the Drogheda net five minutes from half-time.
Moments after referee Alan Kelly had signalled for the start of the second half, Drogheda were once again given the chance to restore parity, with Gary O’Neill this time culpable after the striker was denied by Ger Doherty. More pain in the final third would follow before Derry were gifted their second through Philip Hand.
The left-back inexplicably played a loose pass to Derry’s Mark Griffin who surged forward before releasing to Patterson who tucked his effort past Schlingermann. 2-0.
O’Brien and Eric Foley were dispatched from the bench, both of whom proved inspired substitutions with Foley producing a range of long passing which had eluded both Paul O’Conor and David Cassidy in the middle of midfield – while O’Brien contributed in the only way he knows how.
The club’s record goalscorer found a yard of space in a congested penalty area to turn home Gavin Brennan’s corner and Fabio bagged his brace moments later when he was sent through on goal by Ryan Brennan before rifling his effort past Ger Doherty in the Derry goal.
With a neutral expression and outstretched arms, O’Brien galloped down the touchline in celebration. It should have been the lasting memory of this encounter but minutes later Patterson broke clear and stunned home supporters with a spectacular finish.
Drogheda United begin the defence of their EA Sports Cup title by hosting Longford Town at Hunky Dorys Park on Monday evening.
Brian Gannon (Shane Grimes 33)
Cathal Brady (Declan O’Brien 52)
David Cassidy (Eric Foley 67)
Sean Houston (Ryan Curran 90)
Kevin Deery (Michael Duffy 72)
Mark Griffin (Stewart Greacen 90 +2)
Declan O’Brien (2)
Alan Byrne (OG)
Rory Patterson (2)