KENNY SHIELS believes Derry City struck a decisive psychological blow to Shamrock Rovers in the race for the third automatic Europa League spot last Friday night in Tallaght.
It was another perfect night for the Candy Stripes as the ‘Mac Attack’, the prolific midfield partnership of Aaron McEneff and Barry McNamee, both took their season’s tally to 10 goals with two stunning strikes which opened up an EIGHT points gap between third and fourth.
It was far from Derry’s ‘prettiest’ of wins as Shiels put it afterwards but it was one of the most significant of the campaign as the Foylesiders appear to have hit form at the perfect time.
A fourth straight victory, a fourth consecutive clean sheet and a ninth win from 10 in Dublin since Shiels took charge. And the manner of this latest win at the south Dublin venue was particularly pleasing for the City boss who heaped praise on his team’s organisation as well as the stars of the show, his two ‘special’ leading goalscorers!
“What a brilliant way to take the goal,” Shiels enthused about McNamee’s stoppage time strike. “Barry McNamee is special as is Aaron McEneff who was exceptional. Those two lads have made major contributions to our season. Everybody has. Aaron Barry and Darren Cole formed a really good relationship at the heart of the defence and that was pivotal as well.
“Once we got our noses in front and made the substitutions we got our full back four into operation again. The stage management of the game was very, very good.
Barry McNamee is special as is Aaron McEneff who was exceptional. Those two lads have made major contributions to our season.Kenny Shiels
“I’m delighted with the organisation and I take some of the credit for that myself, the way we forfeited space and the ball. In the second half we played more on the counter-attack and I felt things worked very well for the team.
“We created the most chances in the game even though we gave up territory and let them have more of the pitch but in the right areas so we could nullify them and we did that.
“As the home team you’re going to get that momentum for certain parts of the game. We went looking for the goal about 60 minutes and pushed it for five minutes and got the goal.
“Then we said we would drop off and keep what we have. Tactically I thought it was a very good performance from the team.”
And having developed a little breathing space between their nearest rivals for third, was Shiels preparing to ring the victory bell?
“Bray and Bohs both dropped points also so that was good for us,” he said. “It puts us up to 43 points and eight points ahead of Shamrock Rovers who have a game in hand. They win their game in hand and that makes it five so, who knows?
“But psychologically it’s a blow for them,” he agreed. “It was a professional performance. We weren’t at our prettiest. We weren’t as fluent as we wanted to be but we were as fluent as we needed to be. I thought the organisation was excellent.”
Having taken nine points from Rovers from their three league meetings, City deserve real credit. And Shiels once again proved he’s not afraid to make the big calls. He omitted the in-form Ronan Curtis from the team to face Finn Harps last week for ‘disciplinary reasons’ and against Rovers he dropped the ever present, Dean Jarvis to the bench for the first time this season.
Although Jarvis was called from the bench to shore up the City defence early in the second half, Shiels’ decision to play youngsters, Rory Holden and Ben Doherty were justified with solid displays.
Explaining his decision to leave Jarvis on the substitute’s bench, Shiels felt he needed to try ‘something different’.
“I thought Ben would give us something different going forward with his pace. He’s slightly different to Dean. I was always going to bring Dean on because he’s the best left back in the league. But for this particular game we wanted to push Madden backwards and Ben did very well.”
On City’s last visit to Tallaght, the late, inspirational Ryan McBride netted the winning goal. Rovers fans admirably began a minute’s applause on the fifth minute in his memory. And man of the match, Aaron McEneff admitted the former skipper wasn’t too far from their thoughts.
“The last time we were down here our good mate scored, he’s gone but he’s looking down on us.”