SHAMROCK Rovers manager, Stephen Bradley has downplayed the significance of tonight’s crunch match against third place rivals, Derry City in Tallaght, claiming ‘it’s just another game’.
There’s plenty riding on the outcome of the third and final league meeting between the sides this season but Bradley reckons it won’t decide either team’s final standings.
Derry City can potentially go eight points clear of the Dubliners who have a game in hand, and take a massive step towards securing the third European qualification place with a win.
However, Bradley insists there’s still plenty to play for, regardless of how tonight’s match unravels.
“It’s a big game,” he admitted. “It always is when we play Derry and it’s a game between two clubs at the top of the table. But we’re not getting carried away.
“If they beat us they’re eight points ahead. But I think people are making a lot of that,” he added. “No matter how the result goes, it’s not the end of anyone’s season. There’s a lot of games to be played. As a player, we won the league on the last game of the season - so much can happen in the final run-in of games. It’s a big game, yes, but it always is.
We know they’re a dangerous team going forward but they’re also very vulnerable at the back.Stephen Bradley
“For me it’s just another game and we go and play the game,” continued the Dubliner. “Obviously our intentions are to win it and I’m sure Derry will be hoping the same. There’s a long way to go. Things happen in the last run that are strange.”
Kenny Shiels insists the pressure is on Rovers to win tonight’s match given ‘their infrastructure and the size of their club’ but Bradley laughed off those suggestions.
“There’s a lot of people outside this club who have a lot of opinions on it and don’t have a clue about how it works,” he said. “We’re just looking at tonight’s game and then we’ll focus on the games we have left.
“Tonight’s match won’t define where we end up in the table and it won’t define what we’re trying to do as a club.
“It’s a big game but it always is. But a lot of people will always have a lot of opinions on this club without actually knowing how it works.”
The Rovers supremo has been hugely disappointed with results against Derry this season as he watched his side lose 1-0 at home thanks to the late Ryan McBride’s goal and also suffer a 3-1 defeat at Maginn Park last May.
And so he believes tonight’s match offers them a chance to ‘put it right’.
“I don’t think there’s anything to prove. The first game neither of us deserved to win it and we gave away a late goal. But up there (at Maginn) we were disappointed with the goal which won the game.
“Tonight we’ll go and try and put it right. We don’t have anything to prove. We just need to play to our level which we didn’t do against Bohemians.
“We’ve been very good in Tallaght this season bar one or two games. We need to make sure we’re at our level tonight and if we do that we’ll cause Derry problems I’m sure of that.”
Bradley, a former scout for Arsenal, believes the Rovers attack, who welcome back Ronan Finn, can take advantage of Derry City’s ‘vulnerable’ defence and secure a result which will make up for last weekend’s disappointing loss in the Dublin derby.
“Derry are a decent side with decent players and they’ve hit a bit of form,” he added.
“We know they’re a dangerous team going forward but they’re also very vulnerable at the back.
“We know if we play to our strengths we’ll cause them problems in attack. We’ve got to be set up right. Aaron McEneff and Barry McNamee can cause you all sorts of problems going forward but we have plenty of attacking threat ourselves.”
Bradley confirmed that Roberto Lopes will be out for another week at least following an operation to fix a testicular torsion while fellow defender Sam Bone is also sidelined with a fractured eye socket sustained against Bohemians.
Captain Finn does return having missed the last two games due to an ongoing groin condition.
New signing Lee Grace comes straight into the centre of Shamrock Rovers’ defence.