MUCFP u19s came away from the impressive new Brandywell stadium with a well-earned point on Saturday. With the sun shining the game was played in a very rare 22 degrees on a fantastic new 4G pitch, despite the warm conditions both teams served up an excellent display of football throughout the 90 minutes.
it was an open game throughout, Derry started well, passing the ball sharply and testing the partners back line. The visitors had young Adam Boyle making his first start for the U19s after a lengthy injury kept him side lined since preseason, Adam had impressed the previous week coming on for the last 20 mins against Athlone. The partners weathered the early storm from the home sides attacking play and soon found time to play their own neat passing game, Tim Mc Cann at right back combined well with Eli Ward in midfield and along with Tristan Knowles managed to create some penetrating passes to Tav Semelevicius up front.
With just 15 mins of the game gone the visitors were forced to make a change as center back Shane Kierans had to come off with an ankle injury, recent injuries to our defensive unit has reduced our options for cover so the team needed to reshuffle with players dropping into unfamiliar positions, Tim Mc Cann dropped into center back while winger Shane Hickey took up the right back position, Callum Lynch came on to play up front while Tav moved into the wide right position.
Great credit has to go to the MUCFP players at this point as they adjusted very well to the changes, Shane Hickey put in an excellent performance at right back while Tim Mc Cann also adjusted extremely well at center back, Lorcan Murnaghan organised the back line and was exceptional again as he has been all season, putting his body on the line and making last ditch tackles to deny the Derry striker every time.
The first half continued to be an even affair with the bulk of the play in a tight midfield battle, Derry pressed high and the partners countered very well so the game ebbed and flowed with both sides unlucky not to score, Mark Byrne in the partners goal had a solid game making a couple of good saves, however the best chance of the half fell to Tristan Knowles, following a great passage of play through midfield he ran onto a through ball but his blistering point blank shot was brilliantly saved by the Derry netminder, the half finished deadlocked at nil all.
The second half restarted as the first had ended, both sides playing good football at a high tempo, Derry seemed to have more desire in their attacking play and became more dominant in the early stages of the half, the partners dropped off a little and this played into the home teams game plan, the visitors make shift back 4 needed to defend very well as the home side laid siege to the penalty area and despite the onslaught the partners defence remained solid and unbreakable.
With the hard working Lynch up front the partners were always a threat, counter attacks with the pace of Lynch were always an option and became more frequent as the game opened up, partners captain Cianan Kelly had a great game in midfield as he continued to break down the opposition play and move the ball to the front line, the creative Scott Prendergast out wide also created a couple of half chances for Lynch but the partners couldn’t seem to carve out a clear goal scoring chance.
The visitors made some changes on 65 mins with Ify Nzewi and Chad Mc Eneaney coming on in place of Semelevicius and Knowles to give fresh legs in attack.
Mid way through the half Derry had a great spell of possession, their patient midfield play led to a great opening for Shane McNamee to fire a cracking shot past Byrne to give Derry the lead on 71mins.
Derry almost doubled their lead minutes later when a bullet of a shot crashed off the cross bar, with Derry now on top the partners needed to respond, Nzewi,s physicality in the middle along with Mc Eneaneys creativity behind Lynch the visitors then enjoyed their best spell of the game, Mc Eneaney almost equalised however his snap shot on his weaker side was easily dealt with by the keeper, Lynch managed to get in behind the center backs on a couple of occasions but any effort to score were taken away by some frantic defending from Derry.
With less than 10 mins remaining the visitors were well on top and pushing for an equaliser, the Derry defence became nervous, under pressure one of the defenders kicked the ball high into the stands for a throw in however as they waited for the ball to return Mc Eneaney cleverly resumed play with another ball to catch the Derry defence off guard, the well placed throw in found Lynch in behind the home defence and as he drove into the penalty area with just the keeper to beat he was taken down by a Derry player, the referee awarded a deserved penalty. Lynch stepped up to calmly slot the spot kick into the net.
The final 10 minutes were a nail biting mix of excitement, the partners pressed for a winner and had some chances towards the end of the game, Derry also had a couple of free kicks in injury time but neither side could find the winning goal. After 6 minutes of injury time the game ended in a 1 all draw.
On balance of play a draw was a fair result for both sides, neither deserved to lose.
Stand out performances on the day, Murnaghan,Knowles, Boyle and Lynch.
Subway Man of the match , Eli Ward.
Mark Byrne, Adam Boyle (Michael Mc Cann 75mins) Shane Kierans (Callum Lynch 15mins) Lorcan Murnaghan, Tim Mc Cann, Shane Hickey, Cianan Kelly, Eli Ward, Tristan Knowles (Chad Mc Eneaney 65mins) Tautvydas Semelevicius (Ify Nzewi 60mins) Scott Prendergast (Jack Drumm 88mins)