Clean sheet delight for Derry City's Nathan Gartside

NATHAN GARTSIDE believes Derry City’s defensive unit has improved significantly since the start of the season after the goalkeeper helped the Brandywell club earn a precious victory against Waterford at the RSC last Friday night.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 6:57 pm
Updated Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 6:58 pm
Nathan Gartside saves from Shane Griffin's free-kick at the end of the first half in Waterford. Photograph by Kevin Moore (Maiden City Images).

It was the second clean sheet of the campaign for the Candy Stripes and Gartside played a crucial role as he made several smart saves to deny Waterford who were pushing hard for an equaliser in the second half.

The 23 year-old Maydown man did brilliantly to turn Shane Griffin’s curling 25 yard free-kick behind for a corner at full stretch at the end of the first half before saving from James Waite and Jamie Mascoll. He was delighted with the clean sheet and the fact Ronan Boyce netted the winning goal, meant it was a good day at the office for Derry’s defence.

Having conceded 15 goals from the opening 11 fixtures Gartside admitted the City defence had taken their fair share of criticism and believes they can take confidence from digging deep to get the three points on Friday night.

“We’ve taken our stick, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve held tight but all we can do is improve and get us back up the table,” said the ‘keeper. “Ronan (Boyce) has been so good since he’s come in. He’s such a good all round player and he obviously got high praise and got his new deal. “Everyone is buzzing with him at the minute. He’s solid as a rock and has contributed to the clean sheet today. I can’t complain about anyone in that defence unit at the moment.”

The victory at the RSC moved Derry six points clear of second from bottom Longford Town and seven ahead of the Blues to give the team much needed breathing space from the relegation places. For Gartside it’s about looking up rather than looking over their shoulders now thanks to an impressive run on the road which includes wins against Sligo Rovers, Bohemians and Waterford and a draw against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght.

“We all know the start of the season wasn’t really us and we just need to get back up the table where we belong. Derry’s one of the biggest clubs in Ireland if not the biggest so we need to get back up there, continue to do our jobs and go in every day and be professional. We fancy ourselves to beat anybody in this league. We got the early goal against Waterford but we all know we grinded out that second half. Nevertheless the three points are massive for us.

“We just have to keep the run going and it’s obviously nice to get a clean sheet now and again. We will try and get us as far up the table as we can. Every game is hard in this league and you never take anyone for granted. Especially given they already beat us this season at the Brandywell. We knew we had to do a job and thankfully we got the three points and can go back up the road happy.”

Will Patching, Eoin Toal and James Akintunde all had chances during a dominant first half for Derry and Gartside agreed it could’ve been a much more comfortable night for the visitors.

“It could’ve been more comfortable if we put away the chances we had but we can work on that in training. They had a lot to play for with the new manager and they came out of the traps quickly. Being 1-0 down we knew they would come out and try and push for the equaliser. I just did my bit for the team and thankfully we held on for the clean sheet and the three points.”

Akintunde got his season up and running with goals against Finn Harps and Longford Town while Patching has netted twice from the penalty spot but Derry’s reliance on set-pieces and goalscoring defenders has been evident since the start of the campaign. In fact eight of the 10 goals scored have resulted from set-plays and six of those have been scored by defenders McJannet and Boyce. For Gartside that’s not an issue and the goalkeeper doesn’t care where the goals come from as long as they’re winning matches.

“We’ve got great strengths at set-plays and obviously have scored from quite a few this season but we’ll take any kind of goal that goes in. It doesn’t matter if it’s from 30 yards or from a corner, it doesn’t matter. They all count the same. We’ll take the clean sheet and the three points. It could’ve been more comfortable but we grinded it out and we’re all pleased to get the win.”