DUE to the cancellation of last Saturday night’s scheduled Premier Division game at the Brandywell against Shelbourne, Derry City eyes will now focus on this Sunday’s trip to the Sligo Showgrounds.
And with one of the north-west clubs about to bow out of the FAI Cup at the quarter-final stage, supporters of the “Candy Stripes” will hold the view that this weekend will signal a turning point in their club’s very disappointing record against the “Bit O’Red.”
In fact, previous encounters involving these well matched clubs have always been very close affairs but in their last meeting at the Brandywell in August, Derry City felt particularly hurt having squandered so many clear-cut chances in what was a very narrow 1-2 defeat.
As the home lot squandered a penalty award with the game scoreless in the first half, Ian Baraclough’s men took their chances as Derry struggled when well positioned in front of goal.
However, given that both sides are fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses, another tight game is anticipated and, according to Devine, his players’ total focus will be on this weekend’s clash.
“The players were in the William Street Baths at 8.30 a.m. (yesterday) before the regular 5.00 p.m. training session and our total focus is now directed towards this weekend’s cup game,” insisted Devine.
“We have a full week to prepare but we all realise that having lost our last three games against them is totally unacceptable and we’ve got to address that poor record.
“Those recent games have either been very close or specific turning points have gone against us, be it a referee’s decision or failing to score when well placed, but this Saturday’s fixture is a new challenge for us and it’s a game we really would take great satisfaction from winning,” added Devine.
With Derry continuing to enjoy happy memories of last season’s victory over St. Patrick’s Athletic in the Aviva Stadium, the Brandywell boss believes that that experience will help his players in their preparation.
“We all realise where we have slipped up against Sligo in the past, but we also realise that we worked so hard as a team to win the FAI Cup last season.
“We must attempt to be defensively strong and we must match their workrate. They have benefited from referee’s decisions in the past and while we will no control over that, it’s important that remain concentrated and do everything in our power to record a win, even if the game is to be played at the Showgrounds,” added Devine.
Sunday afternoon’s game will feature the last two FAI Cup winners and Devine had no doubt that the match would be well supported by fans of both clubs.
“We always seem to bring a big support to the Sligo Showgrounds and, hopefully, that will continue to be the case next weekend as we will need all the help we can get.
“The motivation is that we would be one victory away from another final. That said, we cannot afford to travel there in fear. We must play with energy and enthusiasm and try to turn our scoring chances into goals,” he continued.
“We may not have been recording the results we would have hoped for over recent weeks, but I honestly believe that we could be just one good performance away from finish the season on a strong note.
“There’s very little between the sides and it’s important that we rally around each other and help the players to express themselves in every match we play between now and late October.
“I have every confidence in this squad of players and I believe our young lads will continue to impress as the season draws to a close, but a victory at the Sligo Showgrounds would certainly give us a significant boost as we hope to finish the season on a high.