THE last time Derry City tasted defeat it sparked an impressive unbeaten run of eight league games as they marched into second spot in the table, so Kenny Shiels will be hoping Friday’s loss to Sligo has a similar impact.
Whether this defeat, their first since March 4th, is the bursting of the Candy Stripes’ bubble remains to be seen but with St Patrick’s Athletic up next at Richmond Park this Friday night, this will be the most testing period of Shiels’ City reign.
Nobody expected Derry to keep their impressive run going forever but as the first cracks in the armoury opened on Friday night, Shiels was at a loss to explain his side’s poor performance, putting it down to ‘an off night’ as the ‘Candy Stripes’ were punished for mistakes in either half.
And it could have been a lot worse for the home lot as the Bit O’Red came out with the bit between their teeth, determined to exact revenge for their EA Sports Cup exit at Brandywell the week before and they ended Derry’s perfect home start to the season in convincing fashion.
It will be a tall order to repeat that impressive unbeaten run, particularly with matches against St Pat’s at Richmond Park, a North West derby against Finn Harps - who have already notched up a win against Derry this season - and Cork City at Turner’s Cross to come in the next 12 days.
However, Shiels will ‘take it on the chin’, examine what went wrong and move quickly onto the next one against the ‘Saints’.
I think Sligo did to us what we did to them in the cup match; they pressed high, with loads of energy but from our point of view, we were at home, and we just can’t give the supporters that. It was poor from us.Ryan McBride
“We’ve done so well here on our own patch but we have to take it on the chin and move on and improve,” said Shiels afterwards.
“I can’t fault the boys this season but they weren’t really at the races. We can’t take anything away from Sligo because they worked hard to get the result.
“We weren’t able to play anywhere near what we’ve been playing,” added the Derry boss. “I was disappointed with that and I’m sure the supporters were too.
“We have to revisit the performance, repair it and improve for the next one and see where that takes us. Sligo deserved their victory. I’ve no qualms or complaints about that. They did to us what we’ve been doing to other teams this season. We tried everything and tried to change the game with the substitutes but it just wasn’t to be. But we’ll just dust ourselves down and get on with the next one.
“We’ve no excuses,” he continued. “The players were fresh. We had a week’s recovery from the last game so that’s not an excuse. It’s just down to a poor performance and the fact that a lot of our top players were off colour, which was glaringly obvious. When that happens then we don’t function properly.
“We were chasing the game and Aaron (McEneff) got caught in possession for the second one with a fair enough challenge while Patrick (McClean) went to sleep for the free kick on the first one.”
In truth Derry could have found themselves 2-0 behind before ‘man of the match’, Rafa Cretaro - making his 450th appearance for the club - rose above the flat-footed McClean to send his free header into the bottom corner. Gerard Doherty had twice come to the rescue of his teammates beforehand, saving with his leg from Liam Martin’s close range strike before punching clear Cretaro’s shot when the striker got in behind Ryan McBride on 24 minutes.
Derry improved at the start of the second half but Martin came inches away from doubling Sligo’s lead on 65 minutes when he sent his shot crashing off the post before Jimmy Keohane sent the rebound off the underside of the bar as Sligo continued to threaten.
And so it came as no surprise when the visitors deservedly added a second three minutes later when McEneff lost possession 30 yards from the Derry goal and Keohane drilled his shot into the net.
In total Sligo had eight shots on target compared to Derry’s two and Derry skipper, Ryan McBride admitted it simply wasn’t good enough.
“It was poor,” said McBride. “Most of the boys weren’t at the races and that’s not good enough from us. I think a few boys went out and after beating them 2-0 last week, thought they were just going to do it again. Fair play to Sligo they played well tonight but it just wasn’t good enough.”
“We were nine unbeaten but that’s over so we have to take it on the chin now and get on with it.”