Significant pitch improvement applauded by Brandywell boss

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RODDY Collins has extended his sincere thanks to Derry City Council for making a significant improvement to the Brandywell pitch this week as St. Patrick’s Athletic provide the opposition tonight.

And delighted to host the current champions following last weekend’s display in Drogheda, the Dubliner was keen to get his latest acquisition, Jon-Paul McGovern, cleared to play.

“Credit to the City Council for the sterling work they did on the pitch throughout the week. The surface is much, much better than that which we experienced against Cork City, so credit where credit is due,” he said.

And on the McGovern clearance, he held high hopes of having the midfielder cleared to play.

“We’re having great difficult getting J.P. cleared,” lamented Collins.

“But we’re doing everything we can possibly do to get it sorted and, hopefully, if we can get that donein good time, he will be added to the squad to face Pat’s,” confirmed the Derry boss.

Having taken great comfort from the Drogheda performance, he felt his troops were ready for the battle and with competition for places now established in the squad, he felt the positives would continue.

“We could - and should - have taken three points from that Drogheda game and while we didn’t we’ve opted to take the positives from the performance and the players clearly had a spring in their step this week.

“Competition for places is getting better and that has added a little bit of bite to our training sessions.”

While he refused to identify his starting line-up against Liam Buckley’s men, Collins would be expected to opt for experience with Gerard Doherty retaining his No. 1 jersey and Ryan McBride partnering Cliff Byrne in the heart of the Derry defence.

“I’m continuing to learn about the players and, at the same time, they are continuing to learn about Roddy Collins,” he continued.

“I’ve discovered that Patrick McEleney, when at his best, is a top player but can he do it on a consistent basis, that’s what I need to know? If he can do that, then he will prove to be a major asset at Derry City, I’ve no doubt about that.

“Dean Jarvis is another young player who has one particularly well both in training and in Drogheda last week. He certainly gives us something going forward but, if I’m to be honest, he got caught short as did Aaron Barry during the set-piece which led to the Drogheda goal, so I’ve got to find out if that’s going to be a regular occurrence or was it a one-off.

“But when all is said and done, the players will also realise that I’m not here to give them a hard time, far from it. I’ve always been a players’ manager and I’ll always support them 100 per cent. However, I firmly believe in this group and I’m convinced that, as I’ve already said, when everything clicks into place we will be a side to be reckoned with. I’ve no doubt about that.

“I now know that Ciaran Gallagher can step into the first team as he did well in Drogheda, so that’s another positive.

“I believe that we have an embarrassment of riches in the final third with Enda Curran our best player when holding the ball up, while Rory Patterson is our best finisher and that pairing have yet to click, but they will.

“We created so many scoring chances against Drogheda and let’s hope that the same situation will continue against St. Pat’s.”

Collins agreed that St. Pat’s would prove to be stern opposition following their 2-0 defeat against Sligo in the first leg of the Setanta Sports Cup semi-finals.

“St. Pat’s will definitely finish in the top four. I’ve watched them three times already, both live and on DVD and they have a squad of players which would be the envy of any manager. However, I’m not convinced that they have a settled side just yet.

“They have quality individuals and players who can cause us problems, but we have done our homework and it’s important that we marshal the contribution of those players on Friday night.

“We will be set up to win the game and we will be doing all in our power to do just that,” he concluded.

Local radio stations will have extensive coverage of tonight’s match at the Brandywell.

BBC Radio Foyle will have Richie Kelly on commentary while Drive 105’s programme will be led by Colin Green.