Wednesday 20 March 2019

Derry hordes cheer heroes into uncharted territory

Derry City 2 Gretna 2 (Derry win 7-3 on agg) FOR THE first time in their history Derry City last night qualified for the first round proper of the UEFA Cup when they shared a four-goal thriller with Scottish First Division leaders Gretna at the Brandywell last night, a result which comfortably put them through on a 7-3 aggregate.

Like Fir Park in Motherwell two weeks ago, Gretna took the lead but they were unable to make further inroads into the four-goal deficit from the first leg game.

Every possible vantage point inside the stadium, with its new capacity of 2,900, was taken up and outside the ground Derry fans had hired and parked a double decker bus to see the game.

Others had climbed the trees in the city cemetery just to catch a glimpse of their heroes.

Derry started confidently and Ruaidhrí Higgin's close range shot in the first minute was narrowly wide of the target.

Three minutes later defender Ken Oman's header from a Higgin's corner was blocked by Martin Canny.

Derry were given a fright in the tenth minute when James Grady's through ball found David Graham whose twenty yards right foot strike was just inches off target.

Two minutes later Stephen O'Flynn miscued in front of the Gretna goal following a knock down by Mark Farren from a Barry Molloy cross from the right.

Gretna reduced their four-goal deficit in the 17th minute. The home defence failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to Graham, whose powerfully struck shot from just outside the City penalty area gave goalkeeper David Forde no chance.

But 20 minutes later Derry equalised. Barry Molloy held up the ball just outside the Gretna penalty area and pushed it through to Mark Farren whose right foot shot on the turn from a slight angle flew into goalkeeper Alan Main's bottom right hand corner.

Gretna opened aggressively in the second half. Tosh, from a Skelton corner punched away by Forde in the 50th minute, fired his shot from just outside the area narrowly over the top.

But Derry also pressed forward and in the 61st minute Main brilliantly pushed Gareth McGlynn's right-foot shot around the post for a corner.

Derry went ahead eight minutes later. Following a build up down the left side involving Deery and Beckett, the ball came to Ken Oman at the near post and he sidefooted the ball into the net.

Gretna equalised on the night in the 77th minute. Graham's cross from the left was volleyed goalwards by Skelton whose shot was pushed out by Forde, but substitute Baldacchino pounced to fire the ball into the net from close range.

DERRY CITY - Forde, McCallion, Hargan, Higgins, (Deery 58), McHugh, (Martyn 74), Oman, McGlynn, Molloy, Farren, O'Flynn (Beckett 62), and Kelly.

GRETNA - Main, Birch, (Baldacchino 56), Grady, Skelton, Canning, Graham, Deuchar, McGuffie (Jenkins 72), Tosh, (O'Neill 53), Townsley and Grainger.

REF - Peter Rasmussen (Denmark).

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