EAMON Zayed would not have been aware of the talent that would surrounded him prior to his move to the Brandywell before the current season.
was at the Brandywell
But now the Libyan international has every chance of beating Glen Crowe’s goalscoring record with 10 matches remaining in the campaign.
Before Friday night’s game against St. Pat’s, the Dubliner had registered 19 league goals and, following television evidence, he DID get a very faint touch to the ball which saw the “Candy Stripes” break the deadlock 19 minutes before the end of the game!
Now, with 20 goals to his credit, he requires six more to pass Crowe’s all-time record and that’s exactly the target the player has set for himself between now and the end of the season.
However, as a professional, breaking that record will only come second best to Derry City causing a major sensation if the Foyleside club could go on and claim the Premier Division title and that’s Zayed’s priority.
Regarding the opening goal, the player had no doubt he got a touch.
“I’m Claiming It!”
“I’m claiming it, just like any striker would. It was a long ball from Daniel Lafferty and I tried to peel off the defender. I knew there would be only one thing in his mind and he would try and chest it back to the keeper and I took a gamble.
“He chested it short and the keeper came out and did a ‘Peter Schmeichel,’ but I got a touch and the ball went under him and into the net,” he insisted.
“It doesn’t matter how it went in or even who scored, because any goal was going to be huge and to get the first one was massive for us. That’s 20 league goals and there’s 10 games to go,” he noted.
“If I can get six more then why not try and break that record? But the main thing is we won the game. I’m enjoying the season, I’m loving life up here and the lads are creating a lot of chances, so if I could get six or seven more goals before the end of the season, it would be fanatastic.”
He denied having set himself a target following his arrival at the Brandywell.
“I didn’t set a target at the start of the season to be honest, but with four series of nine games I hoped to score five goals in each. That’s 20 goals. I’m on 20 now so my target is to try and get another six or seven and beat that league record. That would be great. But the main thing is to win the league title and that’s what we’re aiming to do,” declared Zayed.
“The result was key and to beat St. Pat’s - who are a top four team - sends out a signal that we’re serious title contenders this year.
“Before the game we would have taken any kind of a win, but the second half performance showed that we can play a bit. There was only going to be one winner in the second half and I felt we deserved the two goals.
“We wanted the win. A draw wouldn’t have been good enough if we are to go on and win the league. We have to be picking up wins at home especially and as many points as we can when away from home.
The deserved defeat of St. Pat’s - in front of an estimated 2,500 supporters - capped what had been a superb weekend for Stephen Kenny’s side given that the club’s first choice wingers - James McClean (now at Sunderland) and Gareth McGlyn (injured knee) - both missed the fixture, it could prove a significant result as the 2011 campaign draws to a conclusion.
Derry were excellent on the night having opened with a 4-4-1-1 formation before switching to what appeared a 4-3-3 shape when in possesion of the ball midway through the opening period.
Derry pressurised St. Pat’s at every opportunity having bossed the ball and, indeed, dominated the scoring chances. However, Pete Mahon’s side, while regularly on the defensive, did create and had Daniel North and David McMillan been more prolific, the home side’s deserved win could have been under threat.
That said, it was a fair result on the night with Stephen Kenny’a side dramatically rewarded for their honest endeavour and their ability to deal with the absence of first choice personnel.
Dramatic it was, given that the goals which decided the game were netted during a 10 minute period late in the second half and while Lady Luck certainly intervened for both strikes, Derry City will have no complaints.
Daniel Lafferty’s high looping cross caught out Pat’s centre-half, Brian Shorthall as Zayed challenged for possession and as he attempted ‘chest’ the ball back to his keeper, Chris Bennion was caught out when advancing. Zayed then challenged the keeper as he back-peddled before getting a vital touch, the ball crossing the line.
The Brandywell erupted, the Derry bench punched the air and Pat’s heads began to drop as their Championship challenge had sustained a major setback.
But the visitors could so easily have restored equality minutes after the goal when North burst clear following a high punt upfield and while his pace carried him into a one-on-one situation with Gerard Doherty, the home attendance held its breath.
The Pat’s striker skilfully lobbed the advancing keeper but his effort lack direction when he failed miserably to hit the target, the ball bounching inches wide of the upright and heart-beats on the terraces returned to normal.
But Derry weren’t finished just yet and with space opening up as Pat’s abandoned their defensive tactics, Kevin Deery brought the best out of Bennion with a powerful low shot in the 80th minute before the game, as a contest, was brought to an end - again thanks to that vital intervention by Lady Luck.
In the 81st minute Deery delivered another superb corner, Stewart Greacen glanced the ball across the face of goal before the stunned and unfortunate Dave Mulcahy diverted it into his own net and the “Candy Stripes” strode onto the summit of the Premier Division table.
Defensive frailties, therefore, played no small part in the win but one cannot discount the effort, tenacity and free-flowing football which Derry exhibited on the night with their slick one-touch passing and excellent movement off the ball.
Gerard Doherty was rarely troubled, the Derry back-four produced an excellent, disciplined display to record another clean-sheet while, for me. the experience and talent of the robust Barry Molloy was instrumental in this win.
Derry’s midfield general, operating in front of the back four, actually found time and space to stray into the front-line on occasions and direct the odd shot on target. He was always anxious to link the play between defence and attack and his workrate and reading of the game over the 90 minutes, saw him emerge the most accomplished player on the park.
As usual, Eamon Zayed led the front line using his strength and aerial ability to regularly hold up the ball and, indeed, present Shorthall and Evan McMillan with no shortage of problems while young Stephen McLaughlin displayed a great willingness in his efforts to secure a sustained run on the wing.
Deery’s set-piece deliveries and Ruaidhi Higgins superb and accurate long range passing ability will have given the club’s coaching staff a great lift as Derry worked their way back into the mix to guarantee a fighting chance of claiming the ultimate reward in Irish football this season.
DERRY CITY - Doherty; McCallion, S. McEleney, Greacen, Lafferty; Deery, Molloy, Higgins, McLaughlin; P. McEleney, Zayed. Subs. none used - Ferry, McDaid, McCrudden, Harkin, McBride and Friars.
ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC - Bennion; Pender, E. McMillan, Shorthall, Bermingham (Kenna, 82 mins.); Kavanagh (O’Connor, 82), O’Donnell (Crowley, 82), Mulcahy, Doyle; North, D. McMillan.
REFEREE - Mr. Dave McKeon (Dublin).