Stephen Bradley 'happy' Shamrock Rovers won't have to visit Brandywell again this season
STEPHEN BRADLEY hopes Shamrock Rovers victory over Derry City on Friday night was the last time his team have to travel to Foyleside this season.
The champions have earned six points from trips to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium this season with Graham Burke starring in both matches, but barring a potential meeting in the FAI Cup, Bradley is 'happy' his team don't have to make the long journey north again this term.
In fact Derry's last win over Rovers at Brandywell came back in May, 19th 2017 but Bradley has been impressed with Ruaidhri Higgins' young side and anticipated a tough encounter last Friday night, particularly with 500 home supporters in the ground and he reckons teams won't relish coming to the Lone Moor Road venue.
"I like them," said the Dubliner. "Teams will come here and find it difficult. I definitely think we showed our character and strength in the second half but I definitely think teams will come here and find it difficult to leave with three points and we're happy this is our last trip here hopefully this year," he smiled.
The Rovers boss was full of praise for the 'character and strength' his team displayed in the remarkable 4-2 comeback win following an 'emotionally and physically' draining week.
After the exertions of their Champions League qualifier against Slovan Bratislava where they exited the competition despite a 2-1 home win, the Hoops' preparations for the trip to Derry were thrown into disarray following the emergence of a positive Covid-19 case among the backroom staff.
The Hoops waited until the final possible moment to produce their final team sheet which omitted Sean Gannon who was previously named in the starting line-up and included Richie Towell who was left out of the original squad circulated to the media ahead of kick-off.
It was a chaotic build-up to a crucial league match for Bradley's troops and so he was delighted, after a slow start, that his team came through the test with flying colours.
"It was crazy, especially on the back of Tuesday and when you come here with the crowd they were up for it and we knew it would be a tough game," said the Dubliner. "Credit to the players, they dealt with it really well. We started slow but showed tremendous character to come back and win the game.
"Tuesday was obviously a tough one to take because we felt we did enough in the game to go through against a top side. Unfortunately we didn't and emotionally and physically it took a lot out of us.
"We knew tonight with less recovery time, a long journey and the fans here, we knew it was going to be a difficult game. They had been doing well and it proved that way. We started sloppily and gave them two goals but again we showed tremendous character and quality to come back and win the game."
Bradley felt Graham Burke's goal four minutes before the half-time interval which halved the deficit was the turning point in the game and his double substitutions at the beginning of the second half totally changed the game as attack-minded players Towell and Rory Gaffney caused Derry problems.
"The goal was great timing from Graham and for us obviously. The two goals we gave away were poor from our point of view but Derry deserved it. We were sloppy and got punished. Graham's goal, we knew then at half time we were right in the game. If we scored the next goal there was only going to be one team who would go on and win and we did that.
"We knew what Richie and Rory would give us in the attacking third of the pitch. We just needed to be careful because both had played a lot of minutes recently. It was important to get them on and they gave us a different dimension.
"We were calm at half-time, the players were calm and we knew we could go a few levels and we did that in the second half and obviously scored the four goals."
The win sent out a statement to Rovers' title challengers with the Tallaght men leading the way on 41 points and with a game in hand over nearest rivals St Pat's and Bradley believes his team is clicking into gear at just the right point in the season.
"Now is the important time of the season. Against Dundalk we were very good, in Europe we were very good and tonight. So we know as a group this is an important time of the season between now and the end of the season. We usually click into gear around this time of the year in Europe and thankfully it looks like we're getting there again."