DECLAN Devine refused to be disheartened by Friday’s home defeat to Shelbourne and insisted the ‘Candy Stripes’ can still mount a challenge for the Premier Division title.
The Derry boss is hopeful the Airtricity League’s three week mid-season break will provide ample time for those on the Brandywell injured list to return and help the club bounce back from Friday’s disappointing defeat.
“There are still plenty of games left,” said Devine. “We have two of our three starting centre-backs who were missing on Friday night who should be coming back soon.
“I looked at our bench and there were five players who have never started a game for this football club yet and then I looked at Shelbourne’s bench and see that they have seven players with Premier Division experience. I think that this shows you just how many bodies we are down.
“We will remain positive because if we look at the league table we will see that the likes of Sligo Rovers, St. Pat’s and Shamrock Rovers are not too far ahead of us.
“We’ll hopefully see a few of our first team players return over the break. When we come back we’ll be refreshed and we’ll certainly be ready for our next match against Cork City in a few weeks time.
“I’d like to be challenging for a league title. Never say never. We are still a new team but I’d like to be challenging for a top three finish at the very least.”
Having gone into the clash against the Dubliners on the back of three successive victories, Devine was frustrated that his troops couldn’t exact revenge for the 0-1 defeat Alan Mathews’ men inflicted at Tolka Park last March.
In the end it was a defensive error by centre-back Shane McEleney which cost the ‘Candy Stripes’ a share of the spoils when he allowed Philip Hughes in to score in the second half but Devine was disappointed with the lack of clear-cut chances created by his side.
“A defensive mistake meant that we gave away a soft goal and as I said to the players we have to make it difficult for teams to come to Brandywell and score against us.
“If we don’t do that then we give ourselves an uphill task and it proved fatal. We defended well for most of the game but a minute of madness has meant that we lost the game,” he added.
“We had a lot of decent possession and we moved the ball around quite well so I am disappointed that we didn’t create more goalscoring opportunities than we did. It’s a hurtful defeat as it’s one that I think we shouldn’t have lost.
“We played okay without being very penetrative - it’s a sad end to what was a very positive couple of weeks.
“We had one shot on target and I think we had two or three that went into the side netting or just over the crossbar. We also had five or six free-kicks that we didn’t hit the target from. It was just pretty football without the end product,” he concluded.