BRAY’S caretaker boss, Harry Kenny, admitted he felt a wave of optimism when he was handed Derry City’s teamsheet prior to kick-off on Sunday as he noticed the glaring omission of several key players.
“We were pleased to see Rory Patterson and Barry McNamee missing but they have a good panel here at Derry,” claimed Kenny.
“When we looked at the team sheet, yeah, we felt we had a chance of getting something but it wasn’t to be.”
Patterson (hamstring) had failed a pre-match fitness test while influential playmaker, McNamee also sat out the game through illness.
While the comfortable 2-0 win over the beleaguered ‘Seasiders’ saw City consolidate third spot and return to winning ways at Brandywell after three matches without victory on home turf, the most pleasing aspect of the win for Derry boss, Kenny Shiels was they managed the win despite the absence of two of the club’s most influential performers.
The win was Derry’s first at Brandywell since the 1-0 victory over Bohemians back in April and Shiels was happy his side returned to winning ways in the league with two first half goals from the in-form Josh Daniels and Nathan Boyle proving decisive.
“For the first dozen games everyone was asking what would happen us if something happened to Rory Patterson or Barry McNamee because they’re very influential in the goalscoring department and we’ve won two games in a row without both of them,” said Shiels.
“It’s fantastic that other players can step up to the mark like Nathan Boyle and Josh Daniels.
“Everyone says we have a thin squad but when you take those quality players out of the team, I think we’ve proved we have players who can step up and they’ve been brilliant.”
Patterson is Derry’s top scorer this season with eight goals in all competitions but Boyle has proved a worthy replacement having taken his tally to five goals after just four starts, with his 20th minute strike on Sunday.
Derry were down two of their key players against us and the boys that came in did very well. So I’ll think they’ll be there at the end of the season. They’re well capable of sustaining the challenge this year.Harry Kenny
And Daniels, who was ‘man of the match’ in the FAI Cup second round replay in Drogheda last Tuesday night, netted for the second game on the trot as City proved they have plenty of goals in this current panel. In fact the team has had 12 different goalscorers so far this campaign!
While it quickly became clear why Bray has been struggling at the foot of the table during a first half when they looked all at sea, particularly in defence where there appeared some confusion over who was playing where. Gareth McDonagh paid the price for some poor defending and questionable positional play in the opening period when he was called ashore at the interval.
The Bray caretaker boss recognised the need for change and went from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-2-2 in a desperate attempt to retrieve something from the game.
And the offensive change, coupled with the Derry players taking their foot off the gas to a certain extent, led to a much improved display from the visitors in the second half.
Overall, it was a totally dominant display from the home lot with the impressive Aaron McEneff’s vision and workrate at the heart of the midfield keeping the ‘Candy Stripes’ ticking. The Cornshell Fields lad should have been on the scoresheet at the end to cap an excellent performance but he clearly has a fondness for striking the woodwork.
As the mid-season break fast approaches, Derry finished on a winning note at Brandywell and a positive result in Galway next weekend would be hugely pleasing for Shiels.
“It would be nice to get to the break challenging in the top three or four,” he said. “We have a tough game on Friday night and if we can get something from that it would be a great way to go into the split. We’re on 27 points and we’re 20 points ahead of the bottom after 14 games which is amazing.
“Everyone is confident with the ball and we’re in a good place. We have to prepare for Galway now where we have to win.”
Shiels’ opposite number, who has 60 days in his role of caretaker boss at Bray before he has to make the decision to apply for a permanent position, knows next weekend’s game against fellow strugglers, Longford Town holds much more significance than Sunday’s match against high flying Derry.
And while he’s confident he can lead the Co. Wicklow men out of trouble, he also believes Derry can sustain their challenge for Europe in the second half of the season.
“To come to Brandywell and give Derry a two goal start. it’s always going to be an uphill task after that,” he claimed.
“I’d be very hopeful of getting out of trouble. We have a big game next week against Longford at home. That’s where our season will be defined against teams in and around us not against Derry, Cork or Dundalk.
“Derry were down two of their key players against us and the boys that came in did very well. So I’ll think they’ll be there at the end of the season. They’re well capable of sustaining the challenge this year.”
Bray were made to rue missing a glorious chance to take a shock lead after three minutes from a long ball over the top but Dylan Connolly delayed his shot when clean through, allowing Ryan McBride to recover. After that City punished Bray as Boyle’s shot crashed off the post and fell kindly into the path of Daniels who slotted into the net on six minutes.
And Boyle then effectively killed the game off when he rolled the ball into the unguarded net following a defensive mix-up involving Bray keeper, Peter Cherrie.
Derry came so close to a third after a beautifully crafted move on the hour mark as Lukas Schubert found Niclas Vemmelund inside the Bray box and the Danish defender swivelled on the ball before shooting just wide of the post.
Bray finally tested Gerard Doherty from a corner kick on 64 minutes as substitute, Andrew Lewis flicked his header towards goal but the Derry goalkeeper parried clear the danger.
Derry were inviting the visitors on and Robbie Creevy somehow sent his free header wide the net from six yards on 74 minutes.
At the other end Daniels could have sealed the win when he got on the end of a terrific cross from Boyle but he side-footed his shot the wrong side of the post.
McEneff then struck the post with two minutes to go but it was a one-sided victory and Shiels once again introduced new blood with teenagers, Ryan Doherty and Rory Holden - making his senior debut - coming off the bench.
Derry City - G. Doherty; N. Vemmelund, R. McBride, A. Barry, D. Jarvis; C. McCormack, A. McEneff; L. Schubert, K. Ward (, R. Holden 81), J. Daniels (R. Doherty 88); N. Boyle (J. Allen 81); Subs Not Used - S. Patton, C. McDermott, P. McClean.
Bray Wanderers -P Cherrie; S. Harding, A. McNally, C. Kenna, J Marks (H. Douglas 67); D. Connolly, R. Creevy, M. Salmon, G. McDonagh (G. Pender h-t); R. Brennan; D. Kelly (A. Lewis 62); Subs Not Used - A. Shanahan, A. Byrne, D. Blackbyrne, D. Noone.
Referee - Mr. Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan)