City were guilty of squandering a host of goalmouth chances in the disappointing 1-1 draw with Drogheda at Brandywell in their last outing but ‘Fats’ is confident they can click back into gear against a UCD team they’ve netted nine goals against this season.
The Shantallow man was influential in the 7-1 hammering of the Students when they last met on Foyleside at the end of April, setting up Will Patching and Jamie McGonigle with two stunning passes from deep.
Derry found it a little more difficult to break UCD’s resolve when they needed two late goals to clinch a 2-0 win at the Belfield on April 4th last despite striking the woodwork twice on that occasion.
The frustrating winless run has raised concerns amongst the City fanbase but McEleney reminds them that it’s ‘not all doom and gloom’ considering they’ve lost just four games this season without having had the opportunity to field their full strength side.
“We can keep saying that we should be taking our chances and that’s what it comes down to but at the end of the day it’s part of the game and we need to win matches. We need to get better at it.
“Having watched it (the Drogheda match) again, it was literally just down to not taking our chances,” he reflected. “In the first half we were good and if we came away from that match winning 3-0 then everybody is talking about how good we were in the first half but we didn’t and so we’ve just got to take it on the chin. We need to get better at taking opportunities, there’s no doubt.
“Barring an odd couple, our performances have been quite good so it’s not all doom and gloom. We’re still in a good position coming into Europe now.”
League leaders, Shamrock Rovers, are also experiencing a downturn in performances and results in recent weeks with two defeats in their last three league matches but McEleney has been surprised at how quickly Derry City have been written off as title contenders.
“Football is crazy,” he laughed. “When you’re in the game and understand it, that’s the way it is. These people who are criticising our form have probably never been to the Brandywell to watch one of our matches this year and they have a platform to say what they want. That’s part of football.
“When it’s good you get loads of praise and when it’s not going well you get loads of stick. You have to take it all with a pinch of salt. Don’t get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. People can say what they want, I don’t really care personally.
“We beat Pats away and we’re the best team in the world. We get a couple of draws and we’re the worst team in the world. Bearing in mind we’ve lost the same amount of games as Shamrock Rovers (four). People don’t look at it in that sense. They tend to just see the poor results recently against teams we probably should’ve turned over which is fair.”
The midfielder’s not expecting another avalanche of goals against UCD who will no doubt be smarting from that heavy loss earlier this season but he does expect there to be enough chances created to win the match. He believes an early goal would prove crucial tonight.
“We’ve been creating chances. It’s basically about putting them away. It’s simple enough but we just have to get better at it. It’s just timing and moments too. Had we got the second goal the other night we could’ve cruised through the game and got to the end.
“Obviously with me giving away the penalty it sort of bit us. This week, it’s the same again but trying to be a bit more clinical. There’s been loads of opportunities for us to score goals.
“From what I heard UCD were really good against Pat’s but were beaten 2-1. Down there we couldn’t break them down but got over the line with two goals at the end. They’re a tough team to play against. I know we beat them 7-1 at the Brandywell but they were missing a few players. We got our goals at the right times and kicked on.
“It’s about taking your moments and if you take your chances at the right time on Friday then we can kick on. But it will be a tough game.”
McEleney has been on the Brandywell treatment table himself on a couple of occasions this season and shares the fans’ frustrations at not having enjoyed the benefit of a full squad this term, missing the input of established League of Ireland stars like Michael Duffy who could’ve contributed plenty in the goalscoring department.
“I’m not making excuses but if you look at the bigger picture, we haven’t been able to get out a full team never mind a full squad. It’s been a bit of a nightmare having Mickey and Eoin (Toal), Stout (Ronan Boyce) and Jackie (Ciaron Harkin) out and now Cammy (Dummigan). You’re talking about mainstay players so it’s been difficult and you’re trying to slot people into different positions.
“We have a very young squad and you seen Caoimhin (Porter) put in and he did brilliantly to be fair to him. But people need to just have a sit back and realise where we’re at. I know we had a good start and it’s brought on this expectancy from the fans but we’ve been saying from the start to be patient. It’s the same message.
“I’m not making excuses for the results not being good enough but the injuries have been a factor. If you take your emotion out of the fact we should be winning the game, there’s so many reasons why it’s been a bit up and down recently.
“Every year Mickey (Duffy) has got, I’d say 20 to 25 goals and assists combined so you’re taking that out of the team, so of course it’s going to make a difference. If you have somebody like that then you will be there or thereabouts.”