CITY of Derry Head Coach Mark Nicholl has warned his players he is expecting a ‘massive response’ this weekend against Bective Rangers after last weekend’s defeat at Highfield ended the locals’ interest in the Division 2A promotion race.
Michael Wilson reports
Derry’s post-Christmas run of three successive victories had propelled them back into contention but last Saturday’s 21-13 reversal in Cork means the Judges Road men are now 13 points off the top two with only four games remaining. That leaves Nicholl and his players chasing a top four position which remains with reach but Derry cannot afford any slips against the Leinster men tomorrow.
“Last week was a tough game made,” explained Nicholl, “Highfield had sacked their coaching staff and it was real ‘player power’, they were really pumped up for the game so you have to give them credit.
“It is quite a narrow pitch there and we tried to go too wide, too early without building the phases but even still with 10 minutes to go I still thought we could win, it was that type of game. We probably lacked a bit of experience up front but you have to deal with these situations and full credit to Highfield.
“It does look like the top two have pulled away from the rest now but we still have top four to play for which remains our target for the season and I will expect to see a massive response from the players this weekend against Bective.”
Nicholl will be without Peter Henderson this weekend after a pulled his hamstring forced him to hobble out of last weekend’s defeat, a loss which should see Simon Logue revert to full-back. Winger David Graham is suffering from flu and is another likely absentee but the pack will be strengthened by the return of Sam Duffy and Bob McKillop.
Bective currently sit 13th with only three wins from their 11 AIL games this season but, like Highfield last week, Nicholl has warned that no team in this division can be taken lightly.
“Bective will be dangerous opponents. Last week they were unfortunate to lose 12-10 to Corinthians and if you look at their last four or five games you see they have been picking up bonus points. Like ourselves, they like to get the ball wide so it should be a decent game but I will be looking to see a major improvement from ourselves.”
Seconds draw Enniskillen
Meanwhile City of Derry Seconds will entertain Enniskillen at Judges Road on Saturday, March 16th in the semi-finals of the Powerade Towns Cup following the draw at Ravenhill on Wednesday. The other last four clash will see Omagh entertain fellow Kukri Qualifying Section 2 side Ballyclare at Mellon Park Drive.
The Seconds secured their last four spot after a superb victory over Dungannon IIs, a victory which Nicholl said was just reward for the hard work put in by James Doherty and his players.
“Last week was a fantastic result but fully deserved,” added Nicholl, “James and his players have put a lot of work in and now we are starting to see the benefits of it. At home draw in the semi-finals is the best you can hope for. Enniskillen will be a tough game for them.”