KENNY SHIELS has warned his players to avoid getting dragged into another physical battle against rivals Finn Harps in tonight’s North West derby at Brandywell Stadium. (Kick-off 8 p.m.)
Derry go into tonight’s Airtricity Premier Division clash with confidence after two excellent results against Cork City and St Patrick’s Athletic last week.
It’s not a normal game. It’s got all the ingredients of a derby game that can maybe detract from the quality we have. We can’t fall into that trap.Kenny Shiels
And while he expects Ollie Horgan’s men to come to Brandywell scrapping for a second win over their near neighbours, he has urged his players to ‘express themselves’ and avoid a repeat of that hugely disappointing opening day defeat at Ballybofey.
Former Derry City skipper, Barry Molloy has returned to fitness for Harps after injuring his knee in that opening day meeting and is expected to be involved to add extra spice to tonight’s encounter.
And ex-City striker, Ryan Curran, who netted the winner on March 4th also makes his first return to the Brandywell.
But Shiels insists it’s not a case of exacting revenge for that 2-1 loss at Finn Park and is hoping the ‘extra ingredients’ that a derby fixture brings, don’t detract from the quality of the match.
“Confidence is good and we want to get a result against Finn Harps now,” said Shiels. “It’s going to be such a hard game.
“It’s not a normal game. It’s got all the ingredients of a derby game that can maybe detract from the quality we have. We can’t fall into that trap. We’ve got to keep possession and move the ball well and not fall into that physical battle, because we would lose the game.
“We can’t look at it as a chance of getting revenge or we’ll falter. We want to go out and express ourselves and play.”
The Derry boss believes his team, who went on a nine match unbeaten run after losing to Harps, are better prepared this time around.
“I think our organisation has improved since then. We’ve got to keep demanding more of ourselves. In this game I’m hoping we see some quality from both teams and entertain people and maybe let the ones that don’t attend games - who watch it on television - see that it’s a good product. That way we could maybe pull in more supporters, which we’re trying to do all the time.
“We have to work on what we’re good at,” he continued. “We always try to produce good football and that’s a priority. I want it to be more of a game than a battle.
“Finn Harps have done great. They haven’t lost many games and are a very strong opponent. The underdogs tag in a derby match is something you’re always afraid of but we’ve got to play it like any other game.”
Tonight’s match is televised live by Setanta Sports Ireland and Shiels is hoping his side can showcase their strengths and attract new blood through the turnstiles.
“It’s an opportunity to show people we’re a football city and get people out to watch us. We’re on television so hopefully we can show that passion through the presence of our fans at the game, which will also give the players a great lift.
“I’m looking forward to a good performance and hopefully we can get a result from it.”
City midfielder, Gareth McGlynn has been ruled out of tonight’s match due to a recurrence of his hamstring problem during a reserves match on Sunday while Harry Monaghan (knee) remains sidelined.
Dean Jarvis, who withdrew from the starting line-up against St Pat’s on Friday night after straining his lower back, is rated doubtful.