IF DERRY City encountered difficulties with the quality of the surface at The Oval last Saturday afternoon, then they’d better prepare themselves for tonight’s visit to Gortakeegan, the home of Premier Division basement side, Monaghan United.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Managed these days by the ebullient Roddy Collins, Brandywell boss Declan Devine will hope to have put last weekend’s Setanta Sports Cup Final defeat behind him.
And still smarting from the decision of referee, Raymond Crangle, to allow Crusaders’ equalising goal in the 86th minute, Devine was still concerned with the decision.
“It was the most blatant free-kick I have every witnessed,” said Devine. “Their player clearly impeded Gerard Doherty as he came to collect the high ball, yet the referee chose to ignore the off-the-ball challenge,” added the Derry boss.
“It was an absolute howler by the match official. I complained about it at the time, as did our players, but it’s decisions such as those which win or lose cup finals,” he admitted.
“It was a bad mistake by the referee and, yes, I’m still annoyed about it but I’ve got to move on and now try to get a league victory in Monaghan.
“I would also hold my hands up and state that had the referee given us the free-kick and we went on to win the Setanta Sports Cup, then we would have stolen it, given our overall performance in the final.”
Insisting that it was now time to move on, his priority was to secure a league victory - Derry’s first in seven league games - the last victory dating back to the 2-0 win over Cork City in the Brandywell on March 23rd.
“It really is time to get a victory as we have under-performed in games against what would be considered the weaker teams in the league. We must now stand up and be counted and do everything in our power to move up the Premier Division table. We certainly don’t want to be viewed as a soft touch given our poor start to the current season.
in seven days!
In fact, the “Candy Stripes” now face three league games over the space of seven days. Following tonight’s visit to Gortakeegan (8.00 p.m.), the Brandywell side travel to Dalymount Park to face Bohemians this Friday followed by a home match next Monday night against Bray Wanderers.
“The results of the next three matches could dictate our season and while we are still down in numbers, we must learn from the pain we suffered on Saturday last,” maintained the team boss.
On the team front, Stewart Greacen, Kevin Deery and Mark Farren remain on the injured list while Barry Molloy (groin), Patrick McEleney (calf), Rory Patterson (ankle) and Ryan McBride (calf) are all carrying knocks from the Setanta Cup final.
“We have a few players carrying knocks from Saturday but, hopefully, the majority of those will be okay for the trip to Monaghan but we really can’t take any chances given the size of the squad and the fact that we have three games in so short a time frame.
“We were back in training at 10.00 a.m. on Sunday last and that would have been the case even if we had won the Setanta Cup as the Monaghan match is vitally important to us.
“Sligo struggled to get a 1-0 victory at Gortakeegan while Shelbourne also struggled to get a 3-2 victory there last weekend, so it will be difficult.
“Monaghan may be at the bottom of the table, but they have improved under Roddy Collins who has added experience. They are aggressive and direct and we will have to stand up and be counted.
“They’ve also had the weekend off, while we are fatigued having had to play for 120 minutes in the final, so it’s not going to be easy,” he concluded.
at Windsor tonight
Meanwhile, former Derry City defenders, Peter Hutton and Sean Hargan, will both represent the “Candy Stripes” in tonight’s high profile Harry Gregg Testimonial fixture in Windsor Park where an Irish League Select will entertain a strong Manchester United XI.
The Irish League side will be jointly managed by David Jeffrey (Linfield) and Martin O’Neill (Sunderland) and Hutton and Hargan have been called in due to the “Candy Stripes” league game in Monaghan this evening.
All proceeds from tonight’s game will be presented to local charities.