Zayed leveller slows Hoops' title charge
SHAMROCK ROVERS 1
DERRY CITY 1
From the magnificent to the mundane, this performance from the champions was a lot less extraordinary than their 6-1 drubbing of UCD on Friday night.
Michael O'Neill's stated aim of 40 points at the season's midway point veered off course last night as the Candystripes snatched a second-half equaliser, courtesy of Eamon Zayed. A late Hoops rally reaped nothing more than edge-of-the-seat gasps as Derry clung on to secure their second point in Dublin in four days.
Stephen Kenny no doubt would have been aiming for more than that from their two trips to the capital but they were fortunate to have gained the minimum last night.
They at least looked purposeful early on -- from the first whistle they created the first opening, James McLean laying off to left-back Daniel Lafferty but his effort flashed well wide of Alan Mannus' post.
Rovers then stormed from the blocks and within six minutes Ronan Finn came close, his close-range header sailing just over. Enda Stevens was his usual probing self down the left side and, after he'd forced Lafferty into a headed clearance, Gary McCabe snuck in for the first shot on target.
Great work from both Gary Twigg and Karl Sheppard resulted in the Dubliner bearing down on goal but his shot was easily gathered by the in-form Ger Doherty.
The Derry 'keeper has had a busy weekend in Dublin after a heroic Friday night display at Inchicore and McCabe, for one, kept him busy in the opening half here. The winger forced him to ground again in the 17th minute when a Stevens pass was complimented with a rasping long-range effort.
All Doherty's early work was rendered fruitless on 25 minutes when McCabe broke the deadlock.
With Pat Sullivan allowed the time and space to ping in his cross from the right the likely option was hardly McCabe, but he barely had to leave the ground when he arrived uncontested by the just-introduced Eddie McCallion, the ensuing header sailing in over Doherty.
As opposed to their lively opening Derry were having little joy going forward, with the home midfield putting in an efficient shift.
Zayed did get a half-chance on 43 minutes after Gareth McGlynn had supplied the pass but the effort was lacklustre as it flew well over the Rovers crossbar.
Hoops' centre-half Dan Murray had a clear opportunity to increase the lead right on the stroke of half-time but his left-footed effort from a Stephen O'Donnell free lacked the requisite purchase to trouble Doherty.
Rovers started the second half as they'd ended the first -- on the attack. Sullivan provided McCabe with a magnificent cross-field ball two minutes in, and after he'd cut in behind Stewart Greacen the ex-Sligo Rovers man's powerful strike whistled just left of Doherty and wide.
From the home side looking the likelier to increase the lead, the Foylesiders snaffled back into the contest when Zayed grabbed the equaliser against the run of play, on 64 minutes.
McLean's whipped-in corner was met with a deft header from the Libyan international, giving Mannus no chance as the ball fizzed past him towards the rigging.
Sullivan was having a fine night, though, and with 18 minutes left on the clock his cross for the in-rushing Craig Sives was pin-point. The effort on goal wasn't near as decisive.
McCabe tested Doherty on 83 minutes in a final throw of the dice, but this time an unconvincing save was enough to keep the Hoops at bay.
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus; Sullivan (Turner 75), Sives, Murray, Stevens; McCormack, O'Donnell (Rice 69), Finn, McCabe; Sheppard (Dennehy 62), Twigg.
Derry City -- Doherty; Molloy, Greacen, S McEleney, Lafferty; P McEleney (McCallion 24), Deery, McGlynn, Higgins, McLean; Zayed.
REF -- R Winter (Dublin)