Drumkeen United 2
Derry City 0
By Aidan O’Donnell at St. Patrick’s Park
DRUMKEEN United underlined their title credentials with an impressive win over defending Ulster Senior League champions Derry City at St. Patrick’s Park on Wednesday night.
Richie Moore netted a first-half brace while goalkeeper Paul McCauley pulled off an excellent save to deny Conor Harkin from the penalty spot ten minutes from time.
The result ensures Drumkeen are the only side to still boast a 100 percent start to this year’s USL as they continue to back up the notion that they are one of the main contenders for this year’s league title.
They might not possess the same devastating scoring power of the likes of Cockhill Celtic, but new manager Mickey Rodgers has instilled a real sense of organisation and hard work.
Rodgers, who was part of the Fanad United management when they won the league in 2011, has put a lot of emphasis on defence, but, with the likes of Moore and former Fanad front-man Eunan Kelly up top, they boast a pretty fearsome-looking front two.
Moore showed his predatory instinct to react quicker than both centre-half Eoin Barrett and goalkeeper Seamus Houghton to nip onto a Gavin Reilly through-ball before lifting over the advancing Derry ‘keeper, giving his side the lead after just three minutes.
The home side maintained their high tempo start and a wonderful passing move between Philip Whyte, Moore and Mark Marley released David Craig down the left side in the 13th minute. Craig supplied a pinpoint cross to Kelly at the near post, but the striker was narrowly off-target with a flashing effort beyond the upright.
The hosts doubled their lead seven minutes later when the visitors failed to deal with a John Sweeney corner. Full-back Cormac O’Brien did well, initially, to deny Kelly with a goal-line block, but his clearance fell only as far as Moore, who made no mistake with a classy finish into the top corner.
Derry, whose own brand of energetic football left their opponents chasing shadows at times, had their first real chance midway through the half when Conor Harkin tested the reflexes of McCauley, who managed to get to his feet to then deny Ryan Harkin on the follow-up.
Drumkeen, though, felt they should’ve had a second when a thumping drive by Gavin Reilly came crashing off the underside of the crossbar eight minutes before half-time.
The home side argued that the ball crossed the line, but the incident happened so fast and referee Paul Duddy gave the benefit to the away side.
Marley and Reilly both had good chances to put the game to bed in the opening exchanges of the second half, before Derry were handed a lifeline in somewhat controversial circumstances ten minutes from time.
Ryan Gildea made an excellent backtracking challenge to intercept Kevin Barr as the Derry striker galloped clear. However, the man in the middle felt the defender took the man first before making contact with the ball and duly pointed to the spot.
But McCauley was not to be beaten as the goalkeeper pulled off a fantastic save to thwart Harkin’s well-struck effort.
Drumkeen United: Paul McCauley; Ryan Gildea, Seamie ‘Nanny’ Friel, Chris Kyle, John Sweeney; Gavin Reilly, Philip Whyte, Mark Marley, David Craig; Richie Moore, Eunan Kelly. Subs: Michael Carroll (Sweeney, 73 mins).
Derry City: Seamus Houghton; Cormac O’Brien, Eoin Barrett, Conor Barr, Shaun Cannon; Conor Harkin, Matthew Henry, Raymond Foy, Paul Ramsey; Kyle Cannon, Kevin Barr. Subs: Ryan Harkin (O’Brien, 20 mins), Ryan Doherty (Foy, 70 mins).
Referee: Paul Duddy.