DERRY City face a stern test of their character tonight when they return to a former happy hunting ground, Dalymount Park for what’s sure to be a battle against Bohemians. (7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
However, on the “Candy Stripes” last visit to the Phibsboro venue, Derry were forced to travel the Sunday after arriving back from a Europa League fixture against CSKA Sofia and subsequently lost 1-0 to Pat Fenlon’s side.
Now back in the top flight, Derry will hope to end the first series of Premier Division games on a high and, at the same time, move three points clear of Bohs in the league table.
On the team front, both Barry Molloy (ankle) and Ruairi Harkin (knee) will again sit out the game while last Monday’s League Cup defeat of Mervue could also have come at a cost as Patrick McEleney picked up a dead leg and defender, Emmet Friars, limped off with a hip flexor problem.
However, neither player has been ruled out at this stage and both will take fitness tests before tonight’s kick-off.
For Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny, it’s been a fantastic start to the season and, as normal, he continued to praise the efforts of his playing staff, insisting the group will continue to improve.
“We’re waiting to see how both Patrick and Emmet get on over the next 24 hours. They are both doubtful and haven’t trained this week, so we’ll just have to wait and see how they are before the kick-off,” said Kenny.
“To be fair, a player would normally need maybe seven days to recover from such knocks, but they are young players and we’ve opted not to rule them out just yet,” he added.
Interestingly, Kenny asked his players to be “streetwise” as the prepare for tonight’s clash, claiming that while his side is enjoying a bout of very good form, he warned against the dangers of conceding late penalties as was the case in against both Drogheda United and, indeed, St. Patrick’s Athletic last Friday night at the Brandywell.
“Our form has been consistent, both at home and away, and we pose goalscoring threats all over the park which is good. But our Achilles heel has been conceding penalties during the latter stages of games and we’ve got to get streetwise in relation to that.
“Players can manufacture penalties and we must always been aware of that. We must always be alert to every situation around our penalty area and not fall into the trap of conceding spotkicks.”
However, he was delighted at the way his playing staff had approached life on their return to the top flight.
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“Overall, our play has been very good, in fact, it’s been excellent at times. We have a great belief in our ability and we will travel to Dalymount with confidence as we will be attempting to win the game.
“But Bohemians are experienced, they are defensively compact and don’t concede too many goals. They are also a very big team with Liam Burns, Aidan Price, Anto Flood and Owen Heary in their ranks who constantly threaten in set-piece situations so we’ll have to be on our guard and be well organised in such situations.
“However, for us, the important thing is to continue to believe in ourselves and play with conviction. Bohemians have a high work ethic and we must match that all over the park. In the past we’ve been very brave and courageous and as this is the final game in the opening phase of matches, we’d like to finish the opening quarter on a high.”
Kenny also pointed to the threat of James McClean on the left flank, the significant improvement of Eamon Zayed when leading the attack and the energy and enthusiasm and, indeed, goalscoring threat of Gareth McGlynn who returns to Dalymount for the first time having joined them in the company of Ruaidhri Higgins prior to the start of last season.
“We boast so many players who are capable of scoring goals and the big pitch at Dalymount will certainly suit our style of play and I think belief and confidence is the key if we are to return with a victory and then immediately focus our attentions on next Monday afternoon’s game against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds,” concluded Kenny.