Aaron Greene sent Shamrock Rovers returning to Dublin on a high last night, the lone striker having silenced a Brandywell crowd of 3,500 with the game’s only goal.
Those in attendance had earlier endured more horrific news on the Troubles front, with the tragic death of journalist, Lyra McKee, who 24 hours earlier had been shot in the Creggan.
The impeccably-observed minute’s silence for the late Ms McKee proved to be particularly emotional, the evening always going to be a difficult one.
That said, Derry rose to the challenge and, while they failed to seriously trouble Rovers’ custodian, Alan Manus, one could not deny the slick passing and organisation of the visitors.
The game was decided by a superb incisive pass, two minutes before the break, as Rovers’ playmaker, Jack Byrne, sent Aaron Greene scampering clear.
With clear-cut scoring chances at a premium on what proved to be a perfect night for football, Greene carried the ball towards the edge of the penalty area before drilling a low shot into the net, past the advancing Peter Cherrie.
Earlier Derry’s Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe opted for a spectacular curling effort in the 13 minutes which sailed agonising wide of the target. And two minutes later at the other end Dylan Watts got his head to a Jack Byrne free, but he also failed to hit the target.
Patrick McClean had a low shot deflected wide in the 20th minute while Eoghan Stokes pulled his shot well wide of the Rovers goal five minutes later.
As the first half drew to a close Junior failed to meet David Parkhouse’s cross with a diving header, but it was Rovers who had the final say during the opening period.
Greene broke Derry hearts with that strike on the stroke of half-time, to ease Stephen Bradley’s half-time team-talk The goal certainly took the sting out of the home lot, however, they did create a superb chance to equalise in the 53rd minute, Junior playing Parkhouse through but he directed his shot straight at Alan Mannus and the Rovers’ keeper made a vital stop.
Derry certainly huffed and puffed with the large attendance behind them, but the Rovers defence stood firm as referee, Derek Tomney, certainly tested the patience of the home faithful with a number of dubious calls as the game drew to a close.
Rovers could have doubled their lead during injury time but Cherrie did well to deny Greene from close quarters.
What will be viewed a vital victory, Rovers’ consolidated their eight points leadership, now over Bohemians Stephen Bradley’s side certain to figure at the business end of the table this season.
Cherrie; Cole, Gilchrist, McClean; Harkin (McDermott, 75), Sloggett; Stokes (Bruna, 58), McNamee, Junior; Parkhouse.
Mannus; O’Brien, Lopes, Grace, Clarke (Carr, 64); McEneff, Watts; Byrne (Coustrain, 89), Finn (Vojic, 82), Kavanagh; Greene.
Referee: D Tomney (Dublin).