DFC | Frustrating night as Derry City hold Dundalk FC scoreless at Oriel Park
SSE Airtricity League | Dundalk FC 0–0 Derry City
Gavin McLaughlin at Oriel Park
With Cork City winning in Sligo on Monday night, Dundalk knew that only three points would suffice against Derry City at Oriel Park.
They failed to get it, the visitors proving to be full value for a point that leaves Stephen Kenny’s side a massive 15 behind the runaway league leaders.
Kenny was able to name the same team for the third straight match, something of a luxury for the Dundalk manager this season, and the champions opened brightly.
Ger Doherty was called into action after just three minutes, turning Paddy Barrett’s glancing header from Patrick McEleney’s floated free-kick around the post.
The Derry City goalkeeper then got a strong hand on a powerful Dane Massey effort six minutes later with McEleney seeing the follow-up deflected wide.
The Candystripes were also unchanged from their 3–1 win over Shamrock Rovers four nights earlier and they arrived at the border venue knowing that a win would move them within a point of Dundalk.
Kenny Shiels once again deployed a three-man defence with Nicky Low patrolling the midfield area stylishly but with Rory Patterson absent, they lacked a punch up front and failed to create a single opening in the opening 45 minutes.
As the half wore on, Dundalk seemed to hit a wall themselves as their bright start fizzled out but they still looked the only team likely to fashion an opening.
Chris Shields fired a half-volley over the top as the game drifted past the half hour mark and Robbie Benson was unlucky to see a couple of eye-catching passes just fail to hit their mark.
Things improved considerably after the break with lone Derry City striker Nathan Boyle driving a low effort across the face of the Dundalk goal early in the half.
Jamie McGrath then blazed over from a McEleney cut back before the Derryman located Massey on the left with a delicious pass but the full-back’s knockdown just couldn’t reach David McMillan.
McEleney required some strapping to his right knee on the hour mark and he was withdrawn six minutes later, Ciaran Kilduff his replacement.
Derry carried much more of a threat at that stage and they almost went in front 60 seconds before McEleney’s departure.
Nicky Low’s corner from the right came off Sean Hoare and looped towards goal but -luckily for the Dundalk centre-back — Benson was on the post to clear.
The Oriel Park faithful feared the worst when Boyle capitalised on a slip by Hoare in the 76th minute but he hit the side-netting with just Gary Rogers to beat.
Kenny emptied his bench with Stephen O’Donnell and Thomas Stewart also introduced and Doherty did tip a Michael Duffy drive around the post in the 89th minute.
However, Derry City saw it out relatively comfortably and they almost snatched a win themselves in stoppage time but Aaron McEneff hit the side netting.
DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Niclas Vemmelund, Sean Hoare, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Stephen O’Donnell 74), Robbie Benson; Michael Duffy, Patrick McEleney (Ciaran Kilduff 66), Jamie McGrath; David McMillan (Thomas Stewart 79). Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (GK), Sean Gannon, Conor Clifford, Emmet Hughes.
DERRY CITY: Ger Doherty; Conor McDermott, Aaron Barry, Dean Jarvis; Harry Monaghan, Lucas Schubert (Josh Daniels 75), Nicky Low, Barry McNamee, Ronan Curtis; Aaron McEneff, Nathan Boyle (Mark Timlin 79). Subs not used: Eric Grimes (GK), Rory Holden, Ben Doherty, Scott Whiteside, Mikhail Kennedy.
REFEREE: Neil Doyle. ATTENDANCE: 2,369.