Evan Logan/INPHO Derry City's Ciaran Coll with Ali Coote and Andy Lyons of Bohemians.
Fortress Brandywell
Boyce's stoppage-time equaliser keeps Derry's European dream alive
Derry deny Bohs with late equaliser to remain fourth and in the hunt for the final Europa Conference League place.

Derry City 1-1 Bohemians

Simon Collins reports from Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium

DERRY CITY’S TOP scorer Ronan Boyce netted a crucial 93rd-minute equaliser against Bohemians at the Brandywell as the Candystripes kept alive their hopes of qualifying for Europe.

It was the Ireland U21 defender’s seventh goal of the season and arguably his most important in terms of Derry’s European prospects as the late point ensured the Brandywell club remained in fourth spot with four games to go.

Derry goalkeeper Nathan Gartside had kept the home side in the game during an entertaining first half as he produced a string of excellent saves to twice deny Liam Burt and Promise Omechere.

James Talbot was also called into action and produced a superb double save to deny Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe at the end of the opening 45 minutes.

Bohemians’ 21 year-old striker Omechere did brilliantly to give the Dubliners the lead four minutes into the second half but Boyce struck late as Derry piled on the pressure to stretch their unbeaten home run to six games.

With Sligo Rovers winning against Drogheda, the Bit O’Red hold the upper hand in the race for that third automatic European spot but fourth-placed Derry remain in contention thanks to their dramatic late equaliser.

Ruaidhri Higgins made one change from the team which lost to Drogheda last weekend with Danny Lafferty returning from suspension to replace Evan McLaughlin in an unfamiliar central midfield role for Derry’s penultimate home match of the season. Bastien Hery, on loan from Bohs, was ineligible against his parent club while Jack Malone served a one-match suspension.

Bohemians were forced to make a raft of changes with the league’s top scorer Georgie Kelly missing through injury while skipper Liam Buckley (groin) and Rob Cornwall (ankle) also missed out. Keith Long made five changes in total from the team which lost at home to Waterford with Liam Burt, Ali Coote, Andy Lyons, Anto Breslin and Ross Tierney coming back into the starting line-up.

The Dubliners were intent on leapfrogging Derry into fourth place and picking up form at a crucial stage in the race for European football after a disappointing run of games where they managed just one win in their last seven league fixtures.

They faced a tough test, however, with Derry seeking to extend their unbeaten league run at Brandywell to six matches and remain on the coattails of third placed Sligo Rovers with a second win of the season over the FAI Cup finalists.

Derry began with real purpose during a frantic opening and came close to an opener on three minutes when Scotsman Joe Thomson’s long-range effort went narrowly wide of the target after Dawson Devoy lost possession in midfield.

Moments later Thomson whipped an inviting free kick into the Bohs six-yard area from the left but Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, making his 50th appearance for City, failed to get a vital touch.

City striker Jamie McGonigle turned inside onto his left foot on the edge of the Bohs penalty area on 14 minutes but his strike was saved comfortably by Talbot.

McGonigle tested Talbot again from close range after a promising run and cross from Ogedi-Uzokwe on the left but the striker didn’t get a good enough connection on his half volley.

Devoy was gifted possession 35 yards from the Derry goal and his ambitious strike from distance bounced awkwardly in front of Gartside who managed to parry it behind for a corner kick.

The Gypsies were fortunate not to go behind on 21 minutes when Devoy’s underhit backpass played Talbot into trouble with McGonigle racing to get on the ball but the Bohs keeper came to the edge of his area and managed to clear the danger.

At the other end Boyce failed to deal with a long punt upfield, allowing Burt in behind but Gartside stood tall to block the shot before McJannet made the clearance.

Two minutes later Gartside once again saved superbly from a tight angle after Burt again forced his way through the Derry defence as the game somehow remained scoreless.

Talbot twice denied Derry striker Ogedi-Uzokwe in the space of two minutes at the end of the first half as he parried away the Londoner’s strike from the edge of the 18-yard box before palming away his close range header at the back post.

Bohs countered quickly and when Tierney fed the ball through to Omechere who pulled away from his marker but the striker’s toe-poked effort was turned behind by the feet of Gartside who ensured his side went in at the break on level terms.

Gartside was finally beaten four minutes into the second half as Omechere brushed off the challenge of Eoin Toal before firing a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner from 20 yards to give Bohemians the lead.

Moments later Thomson found himself in space just outside the Bohs penalty area but his well-hit strike went wide of the post. Derry went for the jugular but couldn’t break down the Bohs defence with Rory Feely making a superb block to deny Ogedi-Uzokwe from 10 yards.

Bohemians almost put the game to bed on 75 minutes when Gartside misjudged a long ball towards the edge of his area and when Omechere crossed towards the on-rushing Tierney, his strike was blocked brilliantly on the line by Derry skipper Toal.

From substitute Will Fitzgerald’s long throw-in, Toal flicked it towards Ogedi-Uzokwe at the back post and the striker’s acrobatic effort from close range crashed off the underside of the crossbar.

Derry kept the ball alive and from Thomson’s cross from the left, McGonigle’s powerful header was directed the wrong side of the near post.

Bohemians looked to be on their way to a crucial victory but Derry struck late as Boyce latched onto Ogedi-Uzokwe’s cross from the right and poked the ball home deep into stoppage time to keep their European hopes alive.

Indeed, the Candystripes remain in fourth spot, two points ahead of Bohemians but now four points behind Sligo Rovers whose fate remains in their own hands.

DERRY CITY: Gartside: Boyce, Toal, McJannett, Coll (E. McLaughlin 80); Akintunde, Harkin (Ferry 86), Thomson, Lafferty (Fitzgerald 67), Ogedi-Uzokwe; McGonigle; Subs Not Used – Lemoignan, McChrystal, Storey, Cole, Harris, McLaughlin.

BOHEMIANS: Talbot; Lyons, Feely, Kelly, Breslin; Coote, Tierney, Devoy, Burt (Finnerty 82), Wilson; Omochere (Levingston 83): Subs Not Used – McGuinness, Kiernan, Ward, Idowu, Mullins, McManus.

Referee: Damian McGraith.


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