MICK Cooke may have built a decent record when managing teams against Derry City, but he will be the first to admit that Friday night’s victory has to be one of his easiest ever victories.
was at Brandywell
And while the affable Cooke was delighted to plunder maximum points at the Brandywell following what was a shocking performance by the home lot, one struggled to point to scoring chances actually created by the visitors.
Indeed all three Drogheda goals were fashioned by incredible defensive howlers at vital stages of the game and while those goals certainly frustrated the very small home attendance, it was Derry’s failure to create which compounded the poor effort.
Cooke, therefore, will have enjoyed a relaxing weekend and while he was aware of Derry’s injury problems, he actually had a few players out himself.
Understandably delighted with the comprehensive victory, he was proud of his efforts against the “Candy Stripes” as manager both at Monaghan United and Drogheda.
“I think my record at Brandywell is pretty good,” he smiled. “Even when I was at Monaghan we got good results up here and while I knew Derry had a few injury problems, we had a few ourselves so it was obviously going to be all about the strength of the bench coming into this particular game,” he added.
“That said, I thought the early goal settled us down but I thought we also took our foot off the pedal for the remainder of the first half. I would also admit that we were very lucky to score our second goal so early in the second half and that certainly boosted our confidence levels.
“The young lad who started at right-back for Derry (Michael Barr), was caught napping by Gavin Brennan and that comes down to a lack of experience.
“Our second goal was also fortuitous and the Derry defence was caught out again and the third goal came as a result of another defensive mistake. We’re very happy to take them all, make no mistake about that, we’ll accept them because we’ve made mistakes ourselves and have also been punished.”
Agreeing that the 3-0 win had come much easier that expected, Cooke reiterated that at this level mistakes are normally punished.
“When teams make mistakes, it’s very important that you punish them and, fortunately for us, Derry made a few and we took full advantage. I don’t think Derry troubled us too much during the 90 minutes and I don’t think anyone could argue with the end result.
“The media didn’t pay too much attention to the players that I’ve brought in since taking over at Drogheda. Obviously I brought in quite a few players that I had at Monaghan, players that I had worked with for two or three seasons. I know their cababilities and they’re all quality footballers.
“The seven weeks pre-season training that we did to build the backbone of the team and the fitness levels we have, it showed in the second half. We were really hungry, even after going two up, we were hungry for more goals and that’s down to our fitness level which is good.”
He rejected suggestions that Derry would continue to struggle.
“I think we are ahead of schedule - on target to achieve what we hoped to do this season - but I still think Derry will be in the mix.
“Declan (Devine) has a lot injuries at the moment and among them are several experienced players, which can be very hard to cope with. But I still think Derry will be in the mix for a place in the top four finishers,” he concluded.
Defensive Frailties Continue
The “Candy Stripes” can have no complaints with this defeat and while clearly authors of their own misfortune, they did little to force their hosts onto the back foot.
A timely goal after just eight minutes may have laid the foundations for this victory but, at the same time, the actual timing of the second goal - from a Drogheda point of view - could have been better when arriving just two minutes after the break!
Young Michael Barr, making his first start for Derry, will have learned a very valuable lesson during those early stages.
Having received possession in a particularly dangerous area the Greencastle lad may have attempted to find a colleague with a defensive clearance, but his split second delay in moving the ball out of the danger area allowed the experienced Gavin Brennan to pounce and he finished with aplomb, passing the ball into the net with keeper, Gerard Doherty, totally exposed.
Having shipped four goals in Sligo in midweek, it was not the start the understrength home side had hoped for but, in fairness, Derry struggled to get in behind their visitors with Simon Madden, during the early stages and Stephen McLaughlin, never able to provide the necessary width.
Still, with just one goal between the sides, the Brandywell Faithful will have hoped that the half-time team talk will sort a few problems out.
However, before the attendance got settled into their seats, Drogheda had sensationally doubled their advantage.
And again, it was a defensive howler immediately punished by Brennan who finished with aplomb.
Derry centre-back, Shane McEleney, gained possession but he struggled with his clearance, actually playing Brennan in and the Drogheda player curled the ball high into the corner of the net and the “Candy Stripes” were in serious trouble.
That goal silenced the poor attendance, but it got worse for the home lot.
In the 55th minute, Eddie McCallion received a throw-in from Barr and while he encountered difficulty in controlling the ball, his pass was met by the advancing Declan “Fabio” O’Brien who burst clear and as Doherty raced from his goal-line, the experienced striker skilfully floated the ball over his head and into the unguarded net.
That, basically, was game, set and match and while the Faithful vented their frustrations at the final whistle, it was clear that the natives have become restless following another defeat at a venue which, at one time, was considered a particularly difficult place to secure favourable results for visiting teams.
DERRY CITY – Gerard Doherty; Michael Barr (Barry McNamee, 85 ins.), Shane McEleney (Ryan Curran, 61 mins.), Eddie McCallion, Dermot McCaffrey; Simon Madden, Ruaidhri Higgins, Patrick McEleney (Owen Morrison, 52 mins.), Stephen McLaughlin; David McDaid and Rory Patterson.
DROGHEDA UNITED – Sava; Quigley, McNally, Prendergast, McMahon;R. Brennan, Foley, Cawley (Brady, 74), G. Brennan; O’Brien (Breen, 85), Hynes (Mulvenna, 68).
REFEREE – Mr. N. Doyle (Dublin).