RODDY Collins again praised the performance of his charges when hosting reigning league champions, St. Pat’s, as his “work in progress” continued at the Brandywell on Friday night.
And as the Dubliner continues to get to grips with his players’ performances, surely he must have taken cognisance of what appears to be an exciting development of what could prove to be a potentially quality partnership operating on his left flank.
An area once dominated by current Championship players, James McClean (Wigan Athletic) and Daniel Lafferty (Burnley), the desire and energy exhibited by both Michael Duffy and Dean Jarvis against the Inchicore side will have given Collins plenty to contemplate, the all-local pairing enjoying highly prominent displays.
Duffy, at 19 years-old, who had his contract extended to the end of the 2015 season on Thursday last, put in an energetic display and while his final pass or, indeed, shot on goal, may have fashioned disappointment on the night, his ability to weave his way forward, getting in behind the St. Pat’s defence, was a joy to behold.
In fact his final involvement in Friday night’s game could so easily have seen the teenager hailed a hero.
As the clock ticked towards the 92nd minute, Duffy was put through by Jarvis with a perfectly weighted pass and the winger’s superb shot from point blank range was magnificently dealt with by Pat’s keeper, Brendan Clarke, who amazingly turned the ball around his post.
Clarke’s opposite number, Gerard Doherty, who returned to action having missed last weekend’s share of the spoils in Drogheda, found himself more involved in the action, the Derry keeper opting to beat out shots from the impressive Chris Forrester.
But it was Derry who created the more clear-cut scoring opportunities with Rory Patterson having ballooned Mark Stewart’s cut-back high over the Pat’s crossbar; Dean Jarvis’ header sailing agonisingly wide of the target and Duffy’s last gasp shot denied by the alert Clarke.
St. Pat’s may have arrived without their Irish international midfielder, Keith Fahey, while former Derry City centre-back, Ken Oman, limped off after 28 minutes, but they boast so much quality within their ranks.
As stated, Forrester, Greg Bolger and Fagan proved troublesome, not to mention the presence of Killian Brennan and, indeed, Mark Quigley, who was eventually substituted after an hour, the former Rovers’ striker well contained by young Jarvis.
All in all, a hard-working, honest performance was the assessment and with players such as Jon-Paul McGovern, Barry McNamee and Shane McEleney yet to make an impact at the Brandywell club, Collins refused to lose faith despite a grand total of three points on the league table.
“I think everyone now realises that we’re not involved in making Derry City a quick fix,” commented the Brandywell boss afterwards.
“We’re attempting to blend what we’ve got with the experience we’ve managed to bring it so, in that light, this was a progressive performance.
“Obviously, you’ve got to take into account we were hosting the league champions, a team which hasstrengthened during the close season and I felt we matched them,” added Collins.
“We knew we would have to defend well but we also pushed them back and we caused them a few problems.
“I was absolutely delighted to watch us finish so strongly with Rory (Patterson), Dean (Jarvis) and Michael (Duffy) all presented with chances to win the game, so I was very happy with the effort of the players, it’s good progress,” he maintained.
He agreed that the efforts of youngsters, Jarvis and Duffy, has been excellent on the night.
“We now need to replicate that all over the pitch but it’s worth nothing that we’ve also got some other players now ready to come into the squad.
“But had we defeated Rovers, drawn with Cork and defeated Drogheda, I don’t think we would be ready to deal with the pressure that would have brought.
“We’re finding our way with a new team and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’m very excited with this group of players and I readlly do expect big things from them.
CLEARCUT PENALTY CLAIM?
That said, how referee Paul McLaughlin - and his assistant - failed to award Liam Buckley’s side a 12th minute penalty, only they will know.
Doherty scooped Forrester’s ferocious shot back out into open play and as Christy Fagan stepped forward to gain possession he was clearly impeded by Ryan McBride, the Pat’s striker crashing to the ground, but the Monaghan official refused to take any notice.
A lucky break for the home side but Derry continued to battle with Doherty having to be alert again to touch Killian Brennan’s low drive wide of his post in the 41st minute.
Following the change of ends, Derry attempted to move up a gear and while they did own the ball for lengthy spells, efforts from Patterson and Duffy were charged down inside the area.
Fagan’s superb volley skimmed the Derry crossbar, as the game ebbed and flowed towards a deadlocked finish.
Unlike Derry’s opening home game against Cork, there were no complaints in relation to the quality of the Brandywell pitch, Derry City Council workmen having worked the miracle when providing a vastly improved surface.
Collins also acknowledged the efforts of the Council staff.
“The pitch was 100 per cent improved on what we played on against Cork, so credit where credit is due to the lads who worked on it.” he concluded.
DERRY CITY - Doherty; Collins, Byrne, McBride (Barry, 76), Jarvis; Stewart, Ventre, Molloy, Duffy; McEleney (E. Curran, 58); Patterson.
Subs. not used: McGovern, Timlin, R. Curran, Elebert and Gallagher.
ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC - Clarke; O’Brien, Oman (Hoare, 28), Browne, Bermingham; Bolger, Brennan, Forrester; Byrne, Fegan, Quigley (Chambers 60).
Subs. not used: Lynch, McCormick, Fitzgerald, Kavanagh and Jennings.
REFEREE - Mr. Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan).