Dundalk 1 Derry City 1
Just as it appeared Dundalk’s unbeaten home record would be taken away from them by a Derry side that has raided their dressing-room, the old reliable Patrick Hoban rose to save the day.
There would have been a certain irony in fortress Oriel Park being breached by the Candystripes seeing as it used to be the workplace of visiting boss Ruaidhrí Higgins and four of the players involved here.
Derry’s recent recruitment of Mark Connolly from Dundee United after a six-month loan spell that Dundalk weren’t able to make permanent added fresh spice to this encounter and the experienced centre-half was enjoying a good night until the dying seconds when Hoban ghosted away from him in the box to deliver the perfect header past Brian Maher.
The draw retains Dundalk’s hold on second spot, two clear of Derry albeit with a game more played.
Stephen O’Donnell’s team started well, yet they set themselves an uphill task with an error that helped the Candystripes to get ahead with Greg Sloggett caught napping in midfield and Joe Thomson pouncing to set up James Akintunde who weaved into the area and found the net with the help of a deflection.
It was an ideal platform for a City side suited to countering with Akintunde a strong focal point with support on either side from Declan Glass and Ryan Graydon. Dundalk had better spells of possession, but they had a strong rearguard to break down, with ex-Manchester City holding midfielder Sadou Diallo showing why he is rated by his new employers.
Their task was also complicated by injuries which ruled Paul Doyle and Daniel Kelly out of the game before the half hour. The latter’s replacement Ryan O’Kane came closest to a first-half leveller after he breached the defensive line but couldn’t find a way past Brian Maher. The best save came at the other end, though, with Nathan Sheppard brave as Thomson dithered in a one-on-one situation.
Dundalk went chasing from the restart, with centre-half Sam Bone stepping forward for a solo run and a shot narrowly wide, while Bradley was a constant threat but while O’Donnell emptied his bench, it did not result in end product. A brave Diallo block on O’Kane looked to have secured Derry the spoils but Hoban had other ideas.
Dundalk – Sheppard, Macari (Benson 74), Boyle, Bone, Leahy; Sloggett, Doyle (Lewis 23); Bradley, Adams (Ward 74), Kelly (O’Kane 28); Hoban.
Derry City – Maher, Dummigan, Connolly, S McEleney, McJannet; Diallo; Graydon (Kavanagh 77), P McEleney, Thomson (Lafferty 86), Glass (Duffy 77); Akintunde (McGonigle 68).
Ref – R Hennessy