Mannus blunder gifts spoils to Candystripes
DERRY CITY 1,
SHAMROCK ROVERS 0
SUCH was the bad blood between these clubs in the build-up to last night's clash, nobody expected it to be decided with a generous gift.
Alan Mannus' second-half blunder handed Derry City the points and further expanded this most open of Airtricity League title races in the process.
The Hoops remain top despite this defeat, one point ahead of Derry, but the hierarchy can change twice this weekend with Sligo Rovers playing Drogheda United tonight and St Patrick's Athletic hosting Dundalk tomorrow.
The allegations of racism circling around a Rovers player after these sides last met certainly heightened the aggravation between these clubs, while the decision of the Rovers' supporters groups to cancel their buses and issue a statement critical of the Brandywell security arrangements only deepened the animosity.
The visiting side were unlucky in the end, but their defence was shaky and they failed the test -- largely thanks to a heroic display from City goalkeeper Ger Doherty.
The majority of Rovers fans may have stayed away but the scouts certainly didn't. Reading manager Brian McDermott was on hand to watch James McClean, as was Peterborough's Darren Ferguson and representatives from Wigan.
St Johnstone were there to have a look at Mannus, who is expected to move to Scotland after Rovers' European games this month, although they might reconsider after his dreadful error for the winner.
The first half might have ended scoreless but both sides had chances to go in front. Rovers were perhaps the more relieved team at the interval after Derry caused them plenty of trouble at the back. McClean had a shot straight at Mannus after a slick build-up involving Ruaidhri Higgins and Eamon Zayed, before McLaughlin shot wide and Zayed headed McClean's cross just past the post.
Referee Damien Hancock caused some controversy by whistling for a clash of heads between Ryan McBride and Billy Dennehy just as Gary Twigg thought he had opened the scoring.
Doherty denied Twigg the best chance of the half just shy of the half-hour mark as Dennehy's botched overhead kick fell at the Scotsman's feet but the 'keeper saved brilliantly.
Mannus matched his efforts when denying Zayed, who was put through by an underhit Oman back-pass, and Stephen Rice's last-ditch tackle denied the striker after Patrick McEleney retrieved the situation and centred.
From the resultant corner, Daniel Lafferty headed over and minutes later he had another effort cleared off the line by Craig Sives, before Patrick McEleney's run and shot was tipped around the post by Mannus and Rovers ended the half hanging on by their fingertips.
Nine minutes into the second half, Mannus gifted Derry the opener as Lafferty's harmless looking free skipped off the turf and into the goalkeeper's grasp -- only for him to spill into the net.
Ironically, the free had been indirect anyway so had he not touched it the goal wouldn't have counted.
Michael O'Neill responded instantly, sending on Dean Kelly and Chris Turner for Gary McCabe and Rice in an attempt to get a foothold in the game.
Turner in particular had an impact. Twigg headed over, before he was denied by another Doherty stop -- although this time the 'keeper needed two attempts to prevent his flick going in and cast a nervous glance at the assistant referee, who adjudged the ball hadn't crossed the line.
Doherty tipped a brilliant Dennehy free onto the post, before the 'keeper denied Twigg a third time with a point-blank save late on.
DERRY CITY -- Doherty; S McEleney, Greacan, McBride, Lafferty; P McEleney (Harkin 73), Molloy, Higgins, McClean; McLaughlin, Zayed.
SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus; Sullivan, Sives, Oman, Stevens; McCabe (Kelly 59), Finn, Rice (Turner 59), Dennehy; Twigg, Kilduff (O'Donnell 73).
REF -- D Hancock (Dublin).