FOOTBALL: Third spot still Derry's target

Derry City midfielder Aaron McEneff returns from suspension.
Derry City midfielder Aaron McEneff returns from suspension.

Derry City manager Kenny Shiels remains focused on catching Shamrock Rovers and guaranteeing European football for next season.

City sit one point behind the Dubliners and despite fourth place looking like securing Europa League football for next year, Shiels still wants his players to finish the season on a high.

This evening City welcome Bray Wanderers to Maginn Park with the trio of Dean Jarvis, Darren Cole and Nathan Boyle all set to miss out again. However midfielder Aaron McEneff returns from suspension.

“Fourth is not a mission we are on, we are trying to secure third,” insisted Shiels.

“It’s out of our hands now for the first time this season but I can see a big improvement this week at training from last week because we have had a game under our belts. We’ll not be up to 90 per cent just yeah, but I expect us to be close to that.

“We are without Dean Jarvis, Darren Cole and Nathan Boyle but we have Aaron McEneff back, so we are going to be working really hard to see if we can win the match.”

Having lost to Wanderers twice already this campaign, Shiels is hoping it will be third time lucky but he knows his players want to put their disappointing display at Galway United behind them.

However the Derry manager concedes he’s still baffled at how his squad are only playing their second competitive game in nearly a month.

“It’s a very important game for us but one of our best performances this season was the home game against Bray when we lost 3-2,” he added.

“We lost Gerard Doherty and Rory Patterson in the early stages of that game, yet still went on to dominate it without their leadership.

“I feel we were very unfortunate to lose down there, all be it we weren’t as dominate, so it’s a game we are looking forward too because we’ll be in better condition than what we were last week.

“We are trying to get the Galway game out of our system. There’s not a league in the world where you would be put in a position that two thirds away through the season you have to take a month off. I have never seen it anywhere and I think it was the organisation and the administration of it that needs to be revisited.

“I don’t think there’s a team in Ireland that would have beaten Dundalk, so we were unlucky with the draw but instead of playing the FAI Cup every month, they played it every two weeks, so we had two weekends where we had no games and then because we are trying to produce young players there came another problem as we have five youth internationals in our first team squad and they were called up for their respective countries. That meant we had another game cancelled.

“So we had five free weekends out of seven, four of which we have served.”

City’s Strength and Conditioning coach Pearse Lafferty, backed Shiels and feels the players will be sharper this evening.

“Having no game definitely does effect the players' sharpness. What happens is that whenever you don’t have a competitive game for a month, 'reversibility' cuts in.” stated Lafferty.

“So, for example, if you don’t have a game for two weeks you lose your sharpness and it takes about four weeks to get it back.

“So the players' match fitness and sharpness wasn’t 100 per cent in Galway but going into the Bray match because of that Galway game that fitness and sharpness will be back to around 80 or 90 per cent this week.”