Shamrock Rovers win the battle, but this was a game which backed up the belief that Derry City can make their presence felt in the war.

ictory for Stephen Bradley’s side gives them an ominous four point lead at the top of the table, with a return of 25 from a possible 27 in Tallaght a significant driver in that.

But while they dominated the game with Sligo Rovers where they did drop points, this was by far the toughest night they have experienced on their own patch.

Derry had the better chances before the Rovers breakthrough, a 79th minute strike from sub Danny Mandroiu which illustrated the superior strength in depth in Stephen Bradley’s dressing room.

They will feel aggrieved to travel up the road with nothing, with Rovers asked to defend bravely in the dying stages to withstand a late rally.

Derry travelled down the road feeling the frustration of dominating without scoring against St Patrick’s Athletic on Monday and, while they were never going to enjoy the same level of possession, they made a decent fist of it in the early stages here. They were the better side from the outset, pressing strongly while using the ball reasonably efficiently and the animated Bradley was urging his side to stop dropping so deep for spells.

He had selected Chris McCann ahead of Gary O’Neill as the sitting midfielder and the well travelled 34-year-old lacks the mobility of his younger rival. Derry seized on this with Joe Thomson busy making runs off from the central area.

Rovers just couldn’t relax into the game, with the visiting holding midfielder Cameron Dummigan always aware of Jack Byrne’s presence on the park and helping to stifle that threat to allow the Candystripes to spend periods in the Rovers half. Bradley’s back three are often able to stroll forward with ease against inferior opposition; there was no such luxury afforded to them here.

Two chances arose from the period of pressure, with Jamie McGonigle overhitting a pass to Matty Smith when he could arguably have taken a strike himself.

The best moment of the half came when McGonigle met a Brandon Kavanagh cross on the run, forcing Alan Mannus into a smart stop. Rovers improved as the interval approached without creating a chance of that quality and the half-time demeanour of players and staff indicated they had work to do.

Derry resumed brightly, though, and Bradley introduced Sean Kavanagh for Sean Gannon and switched Sean Hoare to the right of the Rovers defence with Higgins’ charges finding joy on that side. Kavanagh was called upon to make a smart block to deny Thomson after the impressive Will Patching breached the offside trap.

The big switch from Bradley was springing Dylan Watts and Mandroiu for McCann and Rory Gaffney and the injection of energy was welcome. Mandroiu kept Derry guessing with his movement and pace breaking lines, although the decisive moment of the game was simply about being in the right place at the right time.

Andy Lyons, a revelation since moving from Bohs, weaved his way into the box and Brian Maher could only parry his shot into the path of the grateful Mandroiu. Warning signs had been delivered beforehand, and Mandroiu came close to doubling the advantage in the aftermath with Byrne also coming to life in the final quarter.

Derry sprung back from the ropes to ask questions and there were murmurs from those of a Rovers persuasion in the 7,126 crowd when the fourth official held up the board for an additional four minutes. The Candystripes knocked on the door without pushing it open, but Rovers haven’t heard the last of them.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus, Gannon (Kavanagh 55), Lopes, Hoare; Finn (Cotter 81), McCann (Watts 68), Towell, Lyons; Byrne, Burke; Gaffney (Mandroiu 68)

Derry City: Maher, Boyce, McEleney, Toal, Lafferty; Dummigan, Patching; Smith (E McLaughlin 78), Thompson, Kavanagh (Akintunde 67); McGonigle

Referee: Neil Doyle

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