Derry City produced an enthralling fight-back at the Brandywell to stun Limerick and claim a 2-1 win which keeps their Airtricity Premier Division title bid on track. The hosts won the game under controversial circumstances with Rory Patterson scoring a late goal despite appearing to be offside. Stephen Folan’s first-half header put the visitors in front, before Mark Griffin equalised five minutes from time and Patterson stole the points.
Limerick did not look in awe of their opponents as they started brightly and were inches from going ahead after 13 minutes. Rory Gaffney drew a foul from Ryan McBride, and from the free-kick, Shane Tracy curled a brilliant left-footed effort on to Gerard Doherty’s post.
Only three minutes later, Shaun Kelly’s cross from the right fell to Gaffney, and the striker should have scored but contrived to slice his effort wide. With the hosts being restricted to half-chances, Limerick deservedly went ahead in the 29th minute – Tracy’s set pieces again proved instrumental. The midfielder first surprised Doherty with a shot when shaping to cross a free-kick from the right channel, although the Derry stalwart got across to tip wide.
Tracy then floated in an excellent corner for Stephen Folan to rise highest and power a header past the despairing dive of Doherty. With the Blues continuing to dominate, Declan Devine will still wonder how his men did not come in level at half-time. Simon Madden crossed from the right to find Michael Rafter, whose fierce effort from 10 yards was brilliantly saved by Barry Murphy.
Limerick themselves came into the game undefeated in five games, but without a win over their hosts since 2002’s League Cup final. But City started the second half like the side who have launched an early season title challenge.
The home side could have had a penalty just after the break when Griffin was bundled over by Robbie Williams, but referee Tomas Connolly waved the claims away. And after 54 minutes, Ryan McBride’s no-nonsense clearance found its way to Patterson, and clean through, the striker could not find a way past Murphy.
City were in the ascendency, and Mark Griffin lashed home from 18 yards five minutes from time to set up a frantic finale in which Patterson kept his cool to slot home despite being in an offside position.
Derry’s trip to Sligo on Bank Holiday Monday will be a crucial encounter, where Devine’s side will hope to continue their excellent form, and move clear at the top of the table.