NICLAS Vemmelund cut a frustrated figure as the Derry City players went through their post-match warm down at Oriel Park as the Danish defender came to terms with the defensive lapses which cost his side so dearly against champions, Dundalk.
Vemmelund felt Dundalk were there for the taking after Lucas Schubert gave Derry the perfect start with a sixth minute goal which silenced the 2,500 attendance.
However, defensive mistakes ultimately handed Dundalk the initiative and Derry let slip, not only their early lead, but their grip on third spot as Shamrock Rovers moved one point ahead after their 4-2 win over Galway United in Tallaght.
The Danish right-back has been one of Derry’s most consistent performers this season and has produced some of his best form playing at centre-half in the absence of both Ryan McBride and Aaron Barry, despite having to quickly develop partnerships at the heart of the Derry defence with no less than SIX different players!
Max Karner was Vemmelund’s latest partner at the heart of the Derry defence having kept his place from the previous weekend’s scoreless draw in Wexford.
But the Austrian is clearly not yet fully match fit and Derry looked vulnerable on Friday night.
Indeed, the defence was badly exposed for Dundalk’s opening two goals as Derry’s makeshift defence were rumbled against a slick Dundalk outfit with the frightening talent of Daryl Horgan and ex-City playmaker, Patrick McEleney spearheading their attacks.
Horgan terrorised Derry’s left flank all night with Conor McDermot and Ronan Curtis penned back and rarely afforded the luxury to forge their own attacks into the Dundalk half.
And the man who was dominating the pre-match build-up after Martin O’Neill’s admission he would have been handed an international call-up had it not been for Dundalk’s busy schedule, set up the equalising goal just seven minutes after Schubert’s opener.
The pacey winger raced down the left wing, cut inside McDermott before rolling the ball across the face of goal to John Mountney who had time to tee the ball up before volleying into the far corner of the net.
I have been playing with six or seven players I think at centre-half. Max (Karner) is a brilliant player but there’s a bit of work needed for both of us. In a game like this it’s not supposed to happen.Niclas Vemmelund
But it was the concession of the second goal four minutes later which annoyed Vemmelund most as Dundalk went ahead from Mountney’s corner kick. Dane Massey crashed a free header off the crossbar and Brian Gartland reacted quicker than the Dane to head the rebound in off the underside of the bar and into the net.
Having done their homework and analysed Dundalk’s significant strengths from set-piece situations, it was particularly galling for Vemmelund that Derry allowed their dangermen two headers at goal.
After that second goal it was always going to be difficult for the visitors to claw their way back into the game and when David McMillan added a third following a sublime move involving ‘man of the match’, Horgan, it was game over! It was McMillan’s 20th goal of the season and his FIFTH in three meetings against Derry.
As the post-mortem began on the horrendous Oriel Park pitch afterwards, Vemmelund was at a loss to explain what had went so horribly wrong after that dream start.
“It’s hard to say what went wrong,” said the defender. “We’ve had a good week training and everybody seemed ready for the game. We started well and I don’t know what happened but we started making stupid mistakes and they scored goals.
“It’s difficult against the best team at the moment. They’ve got a good run, they’re in Europe playing well so when we went behind it was difficult to come back.
“We’ve been practising all week and we know what to do in set-pieces,” he added. “And then they score from the first corner.
“They had a free header which hit the crossbar and it went straight out to their defender (Gartland).”
Derry have conceded just four goals since they last lost to Dundalk in the league on July 1st, keeping eight clean sheets during that run of 10 games, so this defensive display was certainly uncharacteristic.
“We were really bad defensively but it’s one game and I don’t know how many clean sheets we’ve had the whole season,” said Vemmelund. “I have been playing with six or seven players I think at centre-half. Max (Karner) is a brilliant player but there’s a bit of work needed for both of us. In a game like this it’s not supposed to happen.”
The defensive pairing were at times, too far apart and they will no doubt have been fine-tuning their partnership over the weekend ahead of tonight’s visit of the ‘Hoops’.
Was it a case of the Candy Stripes scoring too early?
“I don’t think it was too early for our goal - I like to score early because you feel good and you’re thinking maybe they will feel tired as they’ve played so many games. But it didn’t turn out our way this time.”
Aaron McEneff’s verdict was also damning on Derry’s defensive set-up for the concession ofthose first half goals as the midfielder warned Derry must be better at set-piece situations.
“The gaffer shows us everything in the videos in the build-up,” said McEneff. “You pick your man, stay with him and head the ball first. It’s a simple as that and unfortunately we didn’t do that and it cost us again.
“Mistakes can happen but at set-pieces that’s most annoying. You shouldn’t concede from set-pieces.”
The Derry players won’t have too long to dissect Friday night’s defeat as they must quickly turn attentions to tonight’s huge league clash against Shamrock Rovers at Brandywell.
It’s a match they can ill afford to lose and Vemmelund believes it’s a good thing the team has such a significant game to think about and prepare for so soon after Friday night’s demoralising defeat.
“We just have to come back. It’s good we play on Tuesday again so we don’t have to think about this match all week,” said the Dane.
“We can get it out of our system. We’ll think about it on our way home and say to ourselves that it’s not good enough and we have to step up.
“We have a big game again. We’ll take it one game at a time. I think we have a good chance. I don’t think Shamrock Rovers is the best team. We played good against them in the last two times and we’re playing at home.
“It’s been a long time since we last played at home. We have to show the supporters some good football and hopefully we can win the game.”
Following their last defeat to Dundalk - that 5-0 loss at home back in July - City went on 10 game run in the league without defeat, so let’s hope this latest defeat can be the catalyst for another positive run, starting with three points against the Hoops tonight!
Dundalk: Gary Rogers: Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Daryl Horgan, Stephen O’Donnell (Robbie Benson 80), Ronan Finn, John Mountney (Chros Shields 75); Patrick McEleney, David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 72); Subs Not Used - Paddy Barrett, Dean Shiels, Darren Meenan, Gabriel Sava.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty: Conor McDermott, Niclas Vemmelund, Max Karner (Ben Doherty 65), Dean Jarvis; Lucas Schubert, Conor McCormack, Aaron McEneff, Ronan Curtis (Nathan Boyle 76); Barry McNamee; Rory Patterson; Subs Not Used - Harry Monaghan, Shaun Patton, Keith Ward, Josh Daniels, Cristian Castells.
Referee - Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan).