I came away from Derry’s game away to Sligo feeling like the Candystripes could have nicked a victory, but a draw at the Showgrounds is nothing to be sniffed at. As it stands, with seven games played, Derry sit in sixth position, six points behind Sligo and five behind Shamrock Rovers and with a series of difficult games to come over the next fortnight, Declan Devine will have to work hard to ensure that the team remains focused.
Indeed, focus was severely lacking in some of the players’ performance this evening and were it not the tireless work ethic of the likes of Barry Molloy, Eddie McCallion and David McDaid, Derry could well have capitulated to a strong Sligo outfit.
On the left wing, young Stephen McLaughlin, who has recently become the object of interest from a few British clubs, and new signing Dermot McCaffrey struggled to keep tabs on Sligo’s Alan Keane, whose ceaseless marauding runs from the right back spot caused the Derry defence a multitude of problems. It should really have been nipped in the bud in the second half, but Keane continued to threaten due to a seeming lethargy in the tracking back of McLaughlin. Thankfully McDaid dropped deep to take the pressure off the midfield, but it should not come to one player doing the work of two.
The skilful Patrick McEleney showed flashes of brilliance tonight, playing some deft passes and even cracking the under side of the cross bar with a shot from 20 yards out, but overall his contribution was minimal. He too lacked focus, as was demonstrated in the second half when, instead of running a Sligo player to the line, he lazily impeded his man, conceding a free kick in the Derry half. Seconds later, as McEleney was more concerned with moaning to the referee about his decision (I never could understand that; get your head in the game!), he allowed Sligo a free run into the Derry box only to be let off by Sligo’s poor finishing. McEleney was soon substituted and it would not surprise me if it emerged that he was taken off as punishment for such complacency.
Kevin Deery had somewhat of an “off” night – he almost seemed uninterested in the first half – which is never something you want to see from your captain, but he improved as the game wore on, taking the lead in the midfield shut down with Barry Molloy. Strangely, Devine introduced the normally prolific Rory Patterson after the 70 minute mark and subbed him just before the final whistle due to an aggravated injury that the Northern Ireland international is carrying.
Granted, Derry are down to the proverbial bare bones due to a spate of injuries to key players, but we need Patterson to be fit – he is no good to the team if he is playing games half-fit. Ideally, he should be rested for the Setanta Cup game away to Shamrock Rovers in three days time and hopefully he will be fit come the second leg at the Brandywell. In the meantime, David McDaid showed that he has the requisite credentials to cover this evening by slotting in a penalty and running himself into the ground for the team.