KENNY SHIELS has warned his players must avoid being ‘bullied’ and stand up to the physical challenge of Waterford as he takes his Derry City team to the RSC tonight.
The City boss cut a relaxed figure as he bathed in the sunshine at Brandywell Stadium yesterday morning prior to boarding the team bus for the long journey south.
This is my 100th game and our win percentage is very good at 48 per cent, which is high considering what we’ve been through in more ways than one.Kenny Shiels
All the talk and ‘conjecture’ surrounding player departures was furthermost from his thoughts as he concentrated on a match which could have a major bearing on who takes that third European spot come the season’s end.
It’s third against fourth with just three points separating the sides and one win apiece from the two previous meetings this season.
Shiels criticised Waterford for what he called ‘cynical’ tactics employed in the opening day 2-1 loss on the banks of the Suir. And ahead of tonight’s crunch clash, Shiels says the game needs a ‘strong referee’.
“We are going there to play a very difficult opponent,” said Shiels. “They’ve shown now they are one of the top three and that’s where they’re at.
“It makes them strong favourites, I’ve no doubt about that but their style of play is very physical and we need a strong referee because our lads will get bullied and we can’t let that happen.
“We’ve got to be stronger and stand up to the physicality of Waterford who have got a very good team but they are also very physical.
“It’s going to be tough as we’re playing in their back yard.”
Midfielder, Nicky Low (abdominal strain) and Darren Cole (virus) are expected to be welcomed back into the starting line up should they pass late fitness tests, however, defender, Gavin Peers is rated doubtful.
City will need all their experience to get a result from the game with Waterford boasting a formidable record at home this season so far.
Their unbeaten record at the venue did come to an end in a shock 6-3 defeat to Limerick last Friday night. They followed that up with defeat to Dundalk at Oriel Park on Monday as they’ve now gone five games in all competitions without victory.
However, Shiels expects a response from Alan Reynolds out-of-sorts side.
“They’ve lost once this season at home and have practically won the rest,” added Shiels. “They are a formidable team with high quality players and I’m not surprised they’re at the top end of the table.
“We want to go with the right frame of mind. We didn’t do that when we went to Bray and we didn’t do that earlier in the season when we went to Sligo.
“So let’s start winning away from home again to give everybody a lift and give us more momentum going into the second half of the season.
Shiels reaches milestone
Tonight’s match marks Shiels’ 100th in charge of the Candy Stripes boss and he admits it’s been a ‘topsy-turvy’ two-and-a-half years at the club.
And he believes he would have a league title on his City CV had he managed to keep hold of his best players.
“This is my 100th game and our win percentage is very good at 48 per cent, which is high considering what we’ve been through in more ways than one.
“It’s been topsy-turvy. Of all the players I’ve signed, if I had been able to keep them and all the players that left who were here prior to me coming we would have strolled the league. You can’t be letting players go - you can’t let that happen.”