A RELIEVED Kenny Shiels has welcomed a return to competitive action tonight as he prepares his side for the visit of bottom of the table Longford Town following an enforced lay-off.
The ‘Candy Stripes’ have played just three league matches since defeating Bray Wanderers at the end of May and Shiels expressed his concerns about the effects of the lack of game time.
St Pat’s have had more games in Europe than we’ve had in our league campaign since May. I’m just pointing out the inconsistencies. We’re not making excuses. We don’t have to make excuses because we lost one game.Kenny Shiels
Over the course of the past seven weeks, the Brandywell club has played Galway United (0-0), Wexford Youths (1-0) and Dundalk (0-5) largely due, of course, to the mid-season interval.
And the enforced break since their last outing, due to the postponement of the Shamrock Rovers match, was particularly hard to take given it came on the back of that heavy defeat to Dundalk at Brandywell.
Shiels has ensured his players haven’t been idle, however, as he slotted in a friendly fixture against Dergview - a match City cruised to a 3-0 win - but it didn’t have the same intensity as a Premier Division clash.
So the Derry boss is pleased his side resume their campaign tonight against lowly Longford as they bid to sustain their challenge for European qualification.
“We’re halfway through July and we’ve only had three games since May!” said Shiels. “It doesn’t help when it’s stop-start.
“Realistically I think it would be better for clubs preparing for Europe to get good preparation for that and have matches right up until the end of June so their match fitness is not affected.”
It’s either’ a feast or a famine’ complained Shiels as he looks ahead to a busy fixture schedule over the next month.
“Other teams are now playing catch-up,” he added. “Teams like ourselves will have a fixture backlog so there’ll be six matches in three weeks.
“So it’s a feast or famine situation. We had three games in two months and now we face six games in three weeks.
“For example, Cliftonville’s season ended in May and yet they’ve had three games since then - the same as us and we’re in-season.
“St Pat’s have had more games in Europe than we’ve had in our league campaign since May.
“I’m just pointing out the inconsistencies of it all. We’re not making excuses. We don’t have to make excuses because we lost one game.”
And Shiels isn’t getting carried away with that potentially demoralising loss to Dundalk two weeks ago and claims Derry go into tonight’s match in good form.
“We’ve lost one of our last six and everyone is using other statistics like our worst defeat. We’ve lost one in our last six so what’s the criticism about? It’s so easy to doctor things up but that’s factual. One defeat in six is not a crisis. We’re looking to try and kick on.”
The Derry boss isn’t expecting an easy night tonight, however, having watched Longford run Dundalk so close at Oriel Park as the Lilywhites needed a last minute goal to sneak a 4-3 win.
“Longford will be a tricky game,” he said. “We looked at them this morning, They have five at the back and two up top, so they’re very solid. It’s not an easy game.”
Having extended the contract of Barry McNamee, Shiels is hopeful of securing the services of several others in the coming days.
Meanwhile midfielder, Dean Brown is poised to finally complete his transfer to the club once his registration is completed in the coming week.