DERRY CITY boss Peter Hutton reckons his side have restored some pride in the ‘Candy Stripes’ jersey despite losing to a last gasp fortuitous goal against league champions Dundalk at Oriel Park on Friday night.
And while Hutton can take some satisfaction from the performance, luck seems to be deserting the Brandywell club at present with midfielder Philip Lowry now expected to join Patrick McEleney on the long-term injury list.
The midfielder appeared to jar his knee after an innocuous challenge on Richie Towell and he could face up to six weeks on the sidelines if initial fears of cartilage damage are realised.
Hutton had called for a marked improvement from last week’s ‘embarrassing’ defeat to Galway United and he was delighted with the ‘pride’ and ‘passion’ shown by his side. And he claims he was ‘immensely proud’ of his players for responding to criticism levelled at them following last week’s loss.
According to Hutton, Derry could have been travelling home from the Co. Louth venue with all three points and a first win in eight attempts against Dundalk had decisions gone in their favour.
Indeed, Hutton couldn’t help but feel a sense of injustice as his side were denied what he felt was two ‘stone wall’ penalty decisions in the second half when Cillian Morrison appeared to be brought down inside the penalty area following a ‘clumsy’ challenge from Paddy Barrett before referee, Jim McKell failed to notice a deliberate handball by Andy Boyle right at the death.
In the end it was substitute, John Mountney’s deflected strike which crept past Derry goalkeeper, Shaun Patton on 86 minutes which decided the game. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Hutton and his team after a heroic effort.
“I thought we at least deserved a draw,” said Hutton. “The manner of the goal we conceded was hard to take as it took a huge deflection and to be fair we were fairly comfortable throughout.
“But we had shouts for at least two stone wall penalties. Cillian Morrison was brought down, he was bundled over in the box and then there was a handball right at the death and how the officials, either the referee or his assistant didn’t make a decision is very, very disappointing.
“Cillian did well to get into the box and Paddy Barrett bundled him to the ground. It was a clumsy challenge and we’re led to believe through the RTE guys that it was a definite penalty. And it was a handball as well at the end. These decisions can change games and unfortunately they once again didn’t go our way.”
‘Slump’ may be too harsh a word to describe City’s recent run of results because performances against Bohemians (1-2) and Dundalk (1-0) certainly warranted better results. But when has football ever been so charitable as to give teams what they deserve?
And Friday’s display against the so far unbeaten league champions showed this City team are more than capable of rising to the challenge.
While the manner of the defeat was particularly galling for Hutton, he believes the performance provides cause for optimism and challenged his players to reproduce the same effort going into next Tuesday night’s League Cup clash against Shamrock Rovers at Brandywell.
“We were looking for a response after the Galway game and we got it. They know that when they need that level of performance they showed against Dundalk they can achieve that and that should be the minimum requirement from here on in.”
“We certainly had the better chances in the game and I’m disappointed we didn’t take them but I thought every one of our players stood up and were counted.”
“So I’m delighted that there was a lot more pride and passion. We deserved to get a draw from it at least so it’s disappointing to come away with nothing. But there was a sense of satisfaction, even among the players, that the know they can get to that level of performance.”
Tuesday night’s League Cup match will be a welcome reprieve for Hutton’s injury depleted team and with fresh concerns over the fitness of Philip Lowry and Shane McEleney, teh Derry boss is expecting another tough test of his side’s character.
“It’s a competition we want to do well in,” he said. “We’re under no illusions it’s going to be a tough game. Shamrock Rovers can probably rest a few players as they have that luxury of having such a big squad and they can bring in quality players whereas we can’t do that.