DERRY CITY manager Kenny Shiels insists he hasn’t given up hope of strengthening his squad after watching the ‘Candy Stripes’ struggle to overcome neighbours, Institute at Drumahoe last night.
The Brandywell club came from 2-1 behind after Niclas Vemmelund netted a brace on a rain-sodden pitch to take the Billy Kee Memorial Cup to penalties.
And Gerard Doherty proved the hero in the shoot-out, saving twice as City won 2-3 to retain the trophy.
The team at Drumahoe was considered to be the strongest of the two Derry City sides on duty last night - the other securing a 2-1 win at Maginn Park against an Inishowen select.
And while Shiels admits he wasn’t too concerned about winning the game, he agreed his side may need fortified before the start of the Airtricity League season on March 4th.
The Derry boss is expected to strengthen his starting XI for the trip to Glentoran at the Oval on Friday, with Gareth McGlynn, Barry McNamee, Cristian Delgado and possibly both Harry Monaghan and Dean Jarvis - who missed out through injury - joining the team which started against ‘Stute.
“It wasn’t about winning the game, it was about getting the preparation right and, on reflection, I think it was good,” said the Derry boss.
“I want them to have a winning mentality. I felt we did enough in the competitive areas and have to add to that with a bit more quality and that will come,” he promised.
“We’ve got Harry Monaghan and Dean Jarvis to come in and Gareth McGlynn and Cristian Delgado, Barry McNamee so we’ll probably go a bit stronger now on Friday night.
“We’ll probably go a bit stronger now on Friday night in terms of getting more continuity for the season.”
It was the perfect fixture for us. Being a derby game, it adds adrenaline to the fixture and it’s just what we needed.Kenny Shiels
Several of City’s promising youngsters got a chance to impress on Tuesday night with Rory Holden looking lively, playing in the ‘hole’ behind Rory Patterson while Sean McBride and Conor Gormely were handed second half appearances and performed well.
While it was difficult to determine the strength in depth at Shiels’ disposal with his squad being split in two on the night, on Tuesday’s display this City side could do with extra options in the final third.
When asked if he envisaged any new signings before the League of Ireland deadline next week, Shiels claimed he ‘was trying his best’.
“I’m trying my best and it’s difficult,” revealed Shiels. “You can see the young players were not quite ready but we’re trying and I’m waiting on reports coming from Maginn Park to see how the other game went.
“Both teams, I thought, performed to the best of their ability on the conditions which were quite heavy. We appreciate ‘Stute got the game on and it was a typical example of a pre-season game where you need competitive action and it really was competitive for a friendly.
“I’m hoping Friday night is competitive as well because Glentoran isn’t an easy place to go to at any time.”
Tuesday night’s opening friendly fixture of Derry’s pre-season campaign had started promisingly for the ‘Candy Stripes’ with Aaron Barry’s header from Aaron McEneff’s corner cleared off the line by Ryan Morrow after eight minutes.
Barry came close with a long range strike 10 minutes later before Danish defender, Vemmelund cut inside and unleashed a left footed strike which nestled into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
It didn’t take long for ‘Stute to get back on level terms, however, as Patrick McClean was adjudged to have brought down Shane McGinty inside the area 60 seconds later and Ciaran Harkin equalised from the resultant penalty.
Substitute, Jamie Dunne put ‘Stute in front on 58 minutes with a tap-in at the far post, despite Ryan McBride’s best efforts to clear the danger.
But Vemmelund ensured the game would be decided on penalties when he popped up to send his deflected strike past the helpless, Gareth Muldoon with three minutes to go.
Derry goalkeeper, Doherty saved from Aidan McCauley and Alex Pomeroy during the penalty shoot-out which followed while Stephen O’Donnell hit the post. Patterson, Nathan Boyle and Josh Daniels meanwhile were on target for City as they retained the Memorial trophy.
And while Shiels admitted there was still plenty of work to do in preparation for the opening day of the season, he claimed it was the ‘perfect fixture’ to kick-start their pre-season campaign.
“It was the perfect fixture for us. Being a derby game, it adds adrenaline to the fixture and it’s just what we needed.
“Most of our players haven’t played for four months, some of them five months so you could see we were rusty and the conditions weren’t suitable for players who are rusty.
“We wanted something that would resemble a League of Ireland fixture and they (Institute) were really pumped up and worked really hard.
“We had to match that but probably went too young. We were lightweight and isolated our striker a lot but it wasn’t about that. It was about getting some sort of organisation with the ball and we achieved that. Not all the time because we gave the ball away at times but it was the perfect fixture.
“I would call it a conditioning game to get us in the condition for the important games. So when the season starts, I’m sure this game will have helped us.”