THRILLED with the early season scoring exploits of striker, Michael Rafter, Derry City boss, Declan Devine, could turn up the heat on his former boss, Stephen Kenny, with the swift return of Rory Patterson for tonight’s trip to Dundalk.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The Co. Tipperary man, who has equalled Patterson’s league total of five goals has thoroughly enjoyed his time leading the City front-line, but he’s anxious to secure a starting place at Oriel Park tonight.
“I’ve still got quite a few friends at Dundalk and we keep in touch regularly,” said Michael this week. “But once we cross the line, it’s all about getting down to work and attempting to win the match,” he declared.
“Dundalk have also made a good start to the season under Stephen Kenny, so we’ll have to be careful as they still have good players at the club.”
Dundalk certainly have included quite a number of new faces having had to rebuild, but for Devine competition for places in his own squad has been the key to this season’s successful start.
“Competition for places is a must as far as I’m concerned. “Michael Rafter has led the front-line in the absence of Rory Patterson and while Stewart Greacen has undergone a knee operation, our young ‘back four’ have stood up to the challenge and they’ve done nothing wrong since - another major plus for us.
“Sean Houston has been unfortunate with injury after a couple of quality displays, but others have stepped in to the breach and we’ve gone on to enjoy a winning run,” noted Devine.
And while he viewed it as very much a case of steady as she goes, Devine demands that his young players must continue to learn and to improve. He demands that in the front line, he has players occupying areas on the pitch where they would be in a position to hurt the opposition.
“We must have players who will cause opponents problems if we are to continue creating scoring chances and scoring goals. But we cannot take anything for granted as the season has just started. Some of our young players must learn that while we expect to score goals in every match we play, that’s not a guarantee. Every game presents us with different challenges and we must be prepared to meet those challenges head-on, get stronger and continue to improve.”
Looking forward to this evening’s match, the Derry boss held the view that the team which defended best at Oriel Park would emerge the victors.
“I believe the team that defends best will come out on top, especially on the artificial surface. Stephen (Kenny) has brought quality players to the club and he has assembled a very attack-minded team. Dundalk boast technically gifted individuals who can hurt you so it’s vitally important that our players remain fully focused on the task at hand and be fully swtiched on at all times.
“I’ve watched Dundalk play this season and they’ve impressed me. So, as always, we will be respectful of the opposition, offering them the same respect which we took to Dalymount Park. We cannot afford to look down our noses at any opponent as every game in this league is a tough one.
“We’re set up to pass the ball and attack and while we like to play on the front foot, it’s also important to be able to encourage our opponets to come out and play us as so many simply got behind the ball last season and basically didn’t want to play.
“This year, we have shown that we can sit back and hit on the counter-attack. We’ve shown an ability to tease teams out of their defensive shell and pick them off.
“So it’s important that we can add different aspects of play to our game and change tactics with a flick of a switch if that’s what’s needed.
“But the only thing we have achieved at this stage of the season is to have won a few matches, but the next three points is the most important three points. We must keep working hard and continue to play with the freedom the players have been granted. No one is being shackled, we operate systems which encourage players to play and entertain,” he concluded.
Local Radio Coverage
Tonight’s game will be broadcast live by both BBC Radio Foyle and Drive 105. Dessie McCallion presents the coverage from Oriel Park with commentary from Eric White and former Derry striker, Liam Coyle on 792 Medium wave from 7.30 p.m.
Drive 105.3 FM’s ‘Match Night Live’ programme will be presented by Kevin McLaughlin and Martin Devine also from 7.30 p.m.