Dundalk 3, Derry City 1
AARON McEneff has warned his Derry City teammates they can’t feel sorry for themselves after Friday night’s defeat to Dundalk put a dent in their hopes of finishing in the third European spot this season.
The midfielder says the team must dust themselves down and prepare themselves mentally and physically for Tuesday night’s crunch clash at Brandywell against Shamrock Rovers who moved one point above Derry after their victory over Galway United.
Derry let slip a 1-0 lead as Dundalk bounced back emphatically to move eight points clear of second placed Cork City while Derry dropped into fourth.
McEneff, who, alongside Dean Jarvis, returned to action at Oriel Park following a one match suspension, was furious with the manner of goals Derry conceded, particularly Dundalk’s second goal from a corner kick.
Lucas Schubert had given Derry the perfect start with a sixth minute goal from close range after Gary Rogers had pushed away Barry McNamee’s shot.
However, the Candy Stripes’ were shaky at the back and conceded twice inside four minutes as Dundalk took command of the game.
And when David McMillan netted his 20th goal of the season close to the hour mark, there was no way back for Derry.
McEneff knows they must now pick themselves up following the disappointing and frustrating loss to the champions and make sure they respond in the right manner when they take on Rovers on Tuesday.
“We had a great start,” lamented McEneff. “Barry (McNamee) got himself into a great position, got the shot away and the keeper palmed it out and Schubert’s tapped it in and you’re thinking ‘here we go’, great start.
We can’t make excuses about the pitch because both teams have to play on it. They’ve come away with three points, we’ve come away with none so I’m sure they don’t care about the pitch at this stage.Aaron McEneff
“But then we conceded far too early from that and then another set-piece this season. Set pieces have killed us. It’s unacceptable to concede so many set-pieces. And the third goal was a sucker punch.”
Dane Massey struck the crossbar from John Mountney’s corner kick on 17 minutes before Brian Gartland followed up with a powerful header which went off the underside of the crossbar and into the net for Dundalk’s second goal.
Considering the Derry defence knew all about the threat of Massey and Gartland from set-pieces, it was hard to take for McEneff.
“The gaffer shows us everything in the videos in the build-up. 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 tonight.
“Mistakes can happen but at set=pieces that’s most annoying. You shouldn’t concede from set-pieces.”
Derry trained on 3G pitches throughout the week but nothing would have prepared the players for such a difficult surface at Oriel Park. It has to be one of the worst surfaces in the League of Ireland but McEneff refused to use it as an excuse.
“We trained one day in Bishop’s Field and then at Magee which is Old Trafford compared to this,” he claimed. “It’s not good to play on. I’m sure the Dundalk players will tell you themselves.
“We can’t make excuses about the pitch because both teams have to play on it. They’ve come away with three points, we’ve come away with none so I’m sure they don’t care about the pitch at this stage.
“I think they’re just more clinical. They took their chances and that was the difference.
“We have to dust ourselves down mentally and physically and pick ourselves up. We have to go back home and beat Rovers on Tuesday night. It’s an important game - a massive game. All the players know it, the staff know it and I’m sure the fans are aware of how important the game is. We have to get three points!
“And we need a crowd out on Tuesday night to have a good atmosphere at the Brandywell because we haven’t had a home match in a while. It would be nice to get a good crowd and a good atmosphere because we need the fans behind us for the rest of the run-in.”
Kenny Shiels made three changes from the scoreless draw in Wexford with McEneff and Jarvis returning from suspension to replace Harry Monaghan and Ben Doherty who dropped to the bench.
And in came Ronan Curtis at the expense of Nathan Boyle as the Derry boss reverted back to his trusted 4-4-1-1 formation.
Derry had made a promising break in the opening moments of the game as Patterson picked the ball up on the halfway line. And despite having options either side he went for the spectacular but his shot on the volley flashed well wide of the mark.
Dundalk responded and Patrick McEleney probably should’ve done better when he got on to the end of Daryl Horgan’s cross but his header from six yards was straight at Doherty.
Derry stunned the home support on six minutes when McNamee raced into the and his screwed shot was parried away by Gary Rogers and when Massey lost his footing, Schubert was on hand to slot home at the back post.
That lead lasted just seven minutes after some terrific work down the left flank by Horgan who terrorising the City defence. The Dundalk midfielder raced down the left wing, cut inside Conor McDermott before sending an inviting ball across the 18 yard line.
The ball eventually came to Mountney who teed himself up before blasting into the far corner to level matters.
evades McMillan but Mountney teed it up before volleying ball into corner of the net.
And Dundalk took the lead on 17 minutes from Mountney’s corner kick when Dane Massey crashed his header off the crossbar but Brian Gartland reacted quickest and planted his header in off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
McEneff came close with a free-kick from 20 yards on the edge of the box but Rogers watched on as it sailed over his crossbar as the half hour mark approached.
McEleney had a chance to extend the Lilywhites’ lead on 34 minutes when he was sent in behind the Derry defence by McMillan but his shot was parried clear by Doherty at the near post.
There were huge shouts for a penalty from the home support 10 minutes into the second half when Horgan’s cross bounced up and hit Max Karner but the referee waved play on.
Horgan was causing havoc on the left wing and through the middle and when he cut through the City defence with a sublime pass, McMillan applied the finish clinically into the corner of the net.
It was the striker’s fifth goal against the Candy Stripes this season in three meetings and his 20th of the season!
When that strike went in there was really no way back for Derry who lacked any real potency in attack. They’ll dust themselves down now, like McEneff said, but they must rediscover their goalscoring touch against Rovers on Tuesday night if they are to regain the initiative in the race for third.
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!
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).