DECLAN DEVINE praised his players' response to last Friday night's derby defeat, claiming they answered their critics 'emphatically' with a comfortable win against Waterford.
The Derry City boss felt his team was unfairly criticised and their integrity questioned after their eight match unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at the hands of rivals, Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
Devine called out the club's critics and 'outside influences' on social media and in the media, branding them 'disrespectful' and 'harsh'.
And so he was delighted his team produced the perfect response with a one-sided 2-0 win over Waterford which saw them close the gap on third placed Bohemians to just three points with nine games to go as they proved their doubters wrong.
"People were questioning us," he said. "This is the first time we really felt outside influences really questioning us and asking about the players' integrity and ability and hunger which I thought was very disrespectful.
"Yes, we've lost a north west derby but listen, look at the stats; look at the creative opportunities we've had in the league this year. It was harsh. It was harsh on our players, it was harsh on the staff, it was harsh on the club that people are questioning our integrity.
"And the players felt that," he added. "There was a nervousness about us coming into the game tonight. People were looking over their shoulders but look back on that game and watch how dominant we were. It could've been more than 2-0 but the biggest thing tonight was the response and the response was emphatic.
"I'm really proud after what the players have had to suck up over the last couple of days, nonsense on social media, nonsense in the papers, nonsense on radio. To hear that these bunch of players were being questioned and then tonight they came to the party and showed what this club is about and I'm delighted for them.
"Tonight was all about them having a reaction and hurting from the defeat on Friday night. That's the pleasing aspect for me after the team was questioned after Friday night which was extremely harsh. Yes, we were poor but you shouldn't question the morals of this team because they dug in away to Bohs, away to Cork. We were 2-0 down in Tallaght and came back to draw 2-2. We were 2-0 down at Oriel Park and came back to 2-2. We conceded in the last minute against Dundalk and came back to draw 2-2.
"This team was questioned coming into tonight's game and I didn't like it and I told the players that. And to be fair to each and every one of them went out and were brilliant."
It really was an excellent team display but it was lit up by a piece of magic and brute force as man of the match, David Parkhouse netted a certain goal of the month contender with a blistering 30 yard strike to complete his match-winning brace.
The striker has been on the end of his own fair share of criticism in recent weeks for being wasteful in front of goal but his contribution against Waterford took his season's tally to 11 goals as he leads the club's goalscoring charts. And Devine stressed there's a lot more to his game than goals..
"I'm delighted for Parky," added Devine. "He's 19 years of age, You ask any centre half he's come up against in this league and they're asking 'who is this boy'. There's serious senior players in this league and he just doesn't give them the time to breath. He's relentless in his work and is jumping into people and holding the ball up brilliantly. I'm delighted he's got two goals but David Parkhouse doesn't have to score goals to get my love. Since the day and hour he's come into this club he's just been magnificent."
It was the perfect night for Devine who handed Michael McCrudden his first start since coming back from a broken foot while skipper, Barry McNamee returned to the fold after his short break. New signing, Grant Gillespie also got a run out for his debut during a 'positive' night on Foyleside.
"Overall tonight was a very positive night. It was a night when the players really came to the party again. Grant is going to be a good player. We've got an abundance of talent now but it's about how the players stay together whether they're in the team, out of the team, a sub or whether they're in the stand. It's important that the team now becomes more important than the individual."
And as the race for the third European spot heats up, Devine rolled out the old 'one game at a time' cliche as he turns his attention to UCD at the Bowl on Friday night.
"It's a great fight but we're not even thinking about Bohs or Pat's or Shamrock Rovers," he claimed. "All we've got to do is take one game at a time. It's an old cliche but we have to think about UCD. It's still very raw with us and the players from when we dropped points here in a game we were so dominant against them. We can only think of the next game and take the points when we can."