Derry fall further behind as unbeaten run ends
Derry City 0-1 Shamrock Rovers
Derry City's five-game winning streak came to an end at the worst possible time as they slipped to a narrow defeat at home to Shamrock Rovers.
The Candystripes are now 11 points behind Rovers, albeit having played a game fewer, but this was a big disappointment for Declan Devine and his players who had hoped to close the gap at the top of the table.
Rovers started brightly, and on seven minutes Derry made the mistake of gifting Ronan Finn space. He picked out Jack Byrne on the left, who cut inside before shooting over Peter Cherrie's goal.
Derry responded in kind and after Ciaron Harkin won the ball deep in the Rovers half, he picked out Junior in space, and the midfielder went for an ambitious first-time effort from distance which just dipped over Alan Mannus' crossbar.
Rovers were pushing hard for the opener and as the game passed 20 minutes they should have had the lead. Dylan Watts left Patrick McClean for dead on the wing and raced into the penalty area but his final ball, intended for Aaron Greene, was behind his team-mate and Derry survived.
A huge turning point came just before the break as Derry missed a glorious chance to take the lead at one end before Rovers found the net at the other. David Parkhouse raced onto a loose ball in the Rovers half and found Barry McNamee, who cut the defence apart with a back heel to send the striker into the penalty area.
Parkhouse's ball across goal took out Mannus and looked perfect for Junior but he somehow headed wide from close range.
Within seconds, Rovers had the lead as Eoin Toal came out and missed a challenge and Greene went through on goal.
The Rovers striker had time and space to pick his spot and he did so brilliantly under pressure, rolling it past Cherrie and into the bottom corner to give Rovers the lead just before the break.
Rovers were dominant in the early stages of the second half as they pinged the ball around with ease. But it was Derry who almost scored as Junior threaded a superb through ball to Parkhouse, who went for goal, but with the angle against him, it was a comfortable save for Mannus.
Finn arrowed a shot over the bar after a miscue from Darren Cole but that was a rare moment of attack from the visitors, who were on the back foot almost constantly as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
Rovers might have sealed it in added time when Cole and Gerardo Bruna collided and they broke, but Joel Coustrain could not beat Cherrie, who parried it behind for a corner kick.
Regardless, Rovers had done enough and they held on comfortably for the three points.
Derry City: Cherrie, McClean, Gilchrist, Toal, Cole, Harkin (McDermott 76), Sloggett, McNamee, Stokes (Bruna 57), Ogedi-Uzokwe, Parkhouse.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus, Kavanagh, Lopes, Grace, O'Brien, McEneff, Finn (Vojic 82), Byrne (Coustrain 88), Watts, Clarke (Carr 66), Greene.
Referee: Derek Tomney.