BRANDYWELL Stadium appears to be a happy hunting ground for Sligo Rovers, a statistic which will not curry favour with the Derry City faithful when the sides clash at the Lone Moor Road venue this evening. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
With Paul Cook’s side having secured victories on their last two visits, not forgetting that 3-0 shock in the Showgrounds back in early May, the “Candy Stripes” will hope to address that situation on home soil.
But to do so, team boss, Stephen Kenny, must plan without the services of midfield general, Barry Molloy, who could be out for four weeks having sustained ankle ligament damage following a clash with centre-half, Stewart Greacen, during last Friday night’s defeat of Bohemians.
That said, Molloy, Greacen and Gareth McGlynn, were all absent in the last clash at the Showgrounds and the “Candy Stripes” are fully aware that a much wanted victory over the ‘Bit O’Red’ tonight would make interesting reading at the business end of the Premier Division table.
While agreeing that Molloy’s absence will prove a loss in the centre of the park, Kenny has every faith in his starting XI and he’s anxious to build on the 3-0 win over Bohemians with back-to-back home victories.
“Barry’s absence is our only setback,” confirmed the Dubliner last night. “Everyone else is fit with both Eugene Ferry and Emmet Friars getting through a 2-1 ‘A’ Championship win at Fanad United on Saturday night and both have been added to the squad.”
Kenny acknowledged that Sligo were “a very good footballing side” and were considered many people’s favourites to challenge Shamrock Rovers for this season’s Premier Division title.
“Few would have considered us as challengers for the title, especially after they beat us 1-0 at the Brandywell in the opening game after we had missed a penalty,” noted Kenny.
“Many felt we had a lot of work do, but I think our players have answered such questions since. We’ve had to do without key players since the season started and with Barry now ruled out, we’ll have to adapt again and deal with the matter.
“We don’t have a big squad of players, but we have individuals who have facilitated the team when operating in different positions and that flexibility will continue within the squad.”
Suggesting that the Bohemians victory had given everyone at the club a lift, he now asked his players to try to press on and consolidate their claims of challenging for the title this season.
“There wasn’t much between us in the first game but after the defeat we had to re-group. I’ve no complaints whatsoever with the result at the Showgrounds but now we’ve been given an opportunity to set the record straight and there’s no doubt that Tuesday night’s game would be a great match for us to win,” declared the Derry boss.
“As a team we continue to improve, our players are learning after every match but we need to improve even more. We’ve been defending well over recent weeks which has been great but we are also the leading goalscorers in the league and to have so many scoring threats throughout the team is a tremendous asset and great credit to the players for that.
“Sligo are an excellent footballing side but we’ve also shown that we can play a bit as well and with two teams wishing to play on a superb Brandywell pitch - and that’s what I expect - then I think it could prove an exciting game.”
Passionate Support Returned to Brandywell
Kenny is delighted that this side have been scoring goals for fun at the Brandywell and during last Friday night’s victory he was particularly happy to see the home support getting behind his players.
“That’s what I really liked about the Bohemians match. We had been scoring six and seven goals yet the Brandywell had been very quiet. However, against Bohemians the crowd got behind us and it was great to see the passion back. That’s what we require for every match we’re involved in as we’re competing favourably at the top level.
“It’s another key fixture for us and it would be nice to record our first win over Sligo in a while and keep placing the pressure on the teams above us in the Premier Division table,” concluded the Dubliner.
Meanwhile, Sligo will welcome back the return of their robust centre-back, Gavin Peers, who missed last Saturday night’s 4-0 win over UCD at the Showgrounds but left-back and former Institute player, Iarfhlaith Davoren will again miss out due to injury.
Joseph Ndo made a return from injury against UCD and, no doubt, his contribution must be contained in the middle of the park.
Sligo boss, Paul Cook, suggested that it would be a tough game for his side, describing the “Candy Stripes” as one of the best teams in the league.
“We’ve recorded two good wins over Derry this season, but I think you can see in this league that there is very little between the top sides when they meet each other.
“We did well to score four against UCD while it took us a while to get going and we certainly can’t afford to be that slow to start, especially when playing in the Brandywell,” he added.
P W D L Pts
Shamrock R. 18 11 5 2 38
St Pat’s Ath. 18 10 5 3 35
DERRY CITY 18 9 6 3 33
Sligo Rovers 18 10 3 5 33
Bray Wan. 17 9 4 4 31
Bohemians 18 7 5 6 26
Dundalk 17 7 4 6 25
UCD 18 4 2 12 14
Drogheda U. 18 2 2 14 8
Galway U. 18 1 2 15 5