IN STARK contrast to Derry City’s dismal opening day loss to Finn Harps last season, Friday night’s total dismantling of Bohemians at Dalymount Park has significantly risen expectations for Kenny Shiels’ troops this year.
For a man who did his utmost to temper those expectations last year until City’s sensational rise to the top could no longer be ignored, Shiels won’t want his players to get too carried away with what was a scintillating start to 2017.
Shiels’ slick outfit has lost just once in their last 17 league fixtures as they continued where they left off last year’s successful campaign, with a demolition job on the Dubliners.
It wasn’t the typical free-flowing football and methodical build-up play from the back we’ve grown accustomed to but they’ve proven their versatility, ability to adapt and were devastatingly effective on the counter attack.
Games involving Bohemians were the lowest scoring affairs last season with just 67 goals scored. Keith Long’s side were only beaten by the league’s top four sides at home last year and even though they’ve been tipped to be among the relegation candidates this season, no one would have expected the hosts to be ripped apart.
However, Bohs gave their visitors a helping hand in the opening two goals. Firstly goalkeeper, Shane Supple raced off his line before bringing down Rory Patterson in the penalty area on 14 minutes. The clinical Aaron McEneff, who netted six from six last year, blasted his resultant spot-kick into the corner of the net to open the scoring.
Last season’s top scorer, Patterson then hobbled off injured to be replaced by the club’s second highest marksman, Nathan Boyle who was to have a significant impact on proceedings with a brace and assist.
Indeed, Boyle was on hand to pick up Supple’s goalline clearance after a shocking backpass from Derek Pender and he took a touch before picking his spot to double City’s lead on the stroke of half-time.
The striker showed his significant strength, desire and incredible pace to latch onto Gerard Doherty’s quick thinking ball from the back and powered his way towards goal before showing composure and applying a quality finish under the legs of the keeper.
“The first one wasn’t so hard, it just fell for me,” said Boyle. “The second one was a nice ball from Gerard and I ran on to the end of it and thankfully it was a nice finish. It’s a great start and that’s what I wanted.
I’m pleased we won our first game on a very good pitch which was the total opposite of last season. To start like that away from home in Dublin, I’m delighted with the result but we must do better in other areas.Kenny Shiels
“To hit the net always helps with the confidence early in the season. I’m happy with that, Two in the first game - all I can do is push on for here and see where it gets me.”
Dinny Corcoran, back at Bohs for a third spell, gave the Dubliners a lifeline four minutes later but Lukas Schubert came off the bench to link up with Boyle and added a fourth on 65 minutes, less than 30 seconds after entering the pitch to end the contest.
Shiels was delighted with the result but not so much the overall performance of his team and reckons they have plenty to improve upon going into Friday night’s visit of Limerick.
And perhaps rightly so. Bohs were at times a shambles at the back and despite being caught out twice by two lightening quick counters they continued to deploy a high line but Derry failed to capitalise.
Bustling frontman, Jamie Doyle also had a couple of gilt-edged chances only to be thwarted by Doherty while Ian Morris missed a free header with two minutes to go.
Regardless, it was a stunning start to the new term and considering Derry had three teenagers playing along the back four during the course of the 90 minutes, it was further proof Shiels is building something special at the club.
The addition of Nicky Low, who made his competitive debut for the club clearly has strengthened the midfield while the Candy Stripes’ potent attack will cause problems for any opposition.
While Patterson’s medial ligament injury and a foot injury sustained by the energetic Ben Doherty will test Shiels’ shallow squad, the season looks to be in good hands.
Shiels assessment was simply ‘must do better’. “The aim was to get three points and we got some confidence from it in terms of how we matured during the game with a very, very young team,” said Shiels.
“It wasn’t as good or anywhere near as good as we can be. Our ball retention wasn’t as good and we weren’t creative enough when we could’ve created more chances. That’s something we will develop throughout the season. I’m pleased we won our first game on a very good pitch which was the total opposite of last season.
“To start like that away from home in Dublin, I’m delighted with the result but we must do better in other areas.”