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Subs make the difference as Sligo Rovers earn deserved comeback victory at the Brandywell

Gerard Lyttle’s replacements saw Sligo recover a 1-0 deficit to take the spoils at the Brandywell.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Derry City 1

Sligo Rovers 2

Simon Collins reports from the Brandywell

SLIGO ROVERS SUBSTITUTE Caolan McAleer netted the winning strike just four minutes after coming off the bench as the Bit O’Red completed a deserved comeback victory against Derry City at Brandywell Stadium.

It was Gerard Lyttle’s men’s second victory on Foyleside this season and the Sligo boss must take full credit as his second-half substitutes made a significant impact.

Former Sligo winger Jamie McDonagh had handed Derry a 35th-minute lead with a magnificent strike from distance which lit up the Brandywell – his first goal for the Candystripes.

However, the home side took their foot off the pedal in the second half and Sligo took full advantage with David Cawley poking the ball past Gerard Doherty for the equaliser on 70 minutes.

And Sligo subs Raf Cretaro and Kris Twardek linked up well before the latter crossed for McAleer who fired into the roof of the net for the winning strike on 79 minutes.

Kenny Shiels had handed ex-Hearts defender Kevin Hattie his debut at left-back while Ben Fisk returned to the starting XI at the expense of the suspended Eoin Toal and the injured Conor McDermott.

Derry, of course, were beginning life without experienced striker Rory Patterson who scored the late, late winning goal against St Pat’s at Brandywell last weekend, following his surprise move to Crusaders.

As for the visitors, they made three changes with Lewis Morrison, Kyle McFadden and ex-Candystripe Patrick McClean coming into the team with the suspended Seamus Sharkey, Twardek and McAleer dropping out.

It was the visitors who started brightest and Cawley sent a header wide from a corner kick on 11 minutes with the game’s first notable chance. Rhys McCabe had a promising opportunity from a free-kick 25 yards from goal but sent his effort behind for a corner off the defensive wall.

Sligo were enjoying the best of the early chances and when McClean found Mickey Drennan with a searching ball over the head of Dan Seaborne from the halfway line, the frontman sent his volley over the crossbar from a decent position on 19 minutes.

Drennan was then denied what would’ve been a certain goal on 27 minutes when he was played in on the left-hand side but just as he was about to unleash his shot from seven yards, City debutante McHattie snuffed out the danger superbly with a well-timed tackle.

60 seconds later, Gavin Peers gifted possession to Sligo skipper, McCabe who crashed his 25 yard shot off the foot of the post with Gerard Doherty beaten.

Derry were living dangerously but it was the Candystripes who broke the deadlock in clinical fashion as McDonagh’s sweetly-struck shot on the half-volley fizzed past Mitchell Beeney and into the net with 35 minutes on the clock.

It was a fantastic strike by the former Sligo Rovers winger and his first Derry City goal in his 31st appearance for the Foylesiders.

Derry’s opener was a harsh blow for the Bit O’Red who had dominated the goalscoring opportunities in the first half and finished strongly, but McDonagh’s wonderful strike was worthy of the lead at the half-time interval.

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Eight minutes after the restart, McHattie was fortunate to receive just a caution following a rash challenge on Jack Keaney which eventually signalled the end of the evening for the Rovers man. From the resultant free-kick the ball was eventually worked towards McCabe and his effort needed to be tipped over the crossbar by Doherty.

As the hour mark approached Sligo came close to an equaliser when Lewis Morrison did well to pick out Drennan and his effort was palmed behind for a corner by the Derry keeper.

Derry were struggling to get going and Sligo deservedly leveled on 70 minutes when Cawley exchanged passes with Morrison and continued his run into the box before poking the ball past the out-rushing Doherty and into the bottom corner for his fourth goal of the season.

Moments later, former Sligo striker Ally Roy pulled his shot wide of the target after getting in behind Kyle McFadden following a long ball forward with Beeney out of position.

Another ex-Rovers man Peers came close for Derry as his goalbound header was saved well by Beeney. However, Derry were caught napping from the corner kick as Sligo struck on the counter.

Sligo boss Lyttle’s second-half substitutes combined to edge Rovers in front with 11 minutes left as Twardek crossed towards the back post: the ball eventually fell to McAleer who hit his shot high into the net despite the best efforts of Doherty, who managed to get a hand to it.

Caolan McAleer Caolan McAleer Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Derry substitute Ronan Hale sent a shot with his left foot agonisingly wide of the post in stoppage time but Derry had left it too late to rally for an equaliser as Sligo clinched a vital win.

Derry can have no complaints with the result as they let slip a glorious chance to close the gap on third-placed Waterford. They and Sligo will meet again at the Showgrounds on Monday evening in the EA Sports Cup semi-final.

DERRY CITY: G. Doherty; J. McDonagh, D. Seaborne, G. Peers, K. McHattie; D. Shiels, A. Splaine, R. Hale, B. Fisk (Ronan Hale 71); A. McEneff; A. Roy; Subs Not Used – E. Grimes, D. Cole, A. Delap, E. Tweed, C. Farren, B. Doherty

SLIGO ROVERS: M. Beeney; K. Callan-McFadden, J. Mahon, P. McClean; R. Donelan, D. Cawley, McCabe, J. Keaney (K. Twardek 62), L. Lynch; L. Morrison (C. McAleer 75); M. Drennan (R. Cretaro 65); Subs Not Used – E. McGinty, D. Collins, L. Kerrigan, N. Morahan

REFEREE: Tomas Connolly (Dublin)

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Simon Collins

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