KENNY SHIELS was glad to see the back of Derry City’s North West rivals Finn Harps as his team made their way back to Foyleside from Ballybofey with three crucial points in the bag last Monday night.
The City boss freely admits the derby fixture is one he doesn’t particularly enjoy and it’s easy to see why given the Donegal men’s recent record.
Harps have taken seven points from a possible 15 available in derby matches since Shiels took the reigns at the Brandywell club.
That famous opening day 1-0 defeat in Ballybofey in Shiels’ first game in charge was Harps’ first league win over the Candy Stripes since 1998 while a 2-0 win at Maginn Park earlier this year was the first ever away win in the league for the Donegal side against City - two statistics Shiels isn’t too fond of facilitating under his watch!
But it’s the fact that the ‘derby factor’ seemingly throws all form books out the window on match day which irks the City boss the most. And he reckons Horgan’s relegation threatened outfit discover a different gear when they lock horns with their near neighbours.
And so Monday’s victory, thanks to late goals from Darren Cole and Aaron McEneff in the final six minutes of the game, was a very welcome one indeed as City recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since last March.
It’s one of our hardest fixtures and one I don’t look forward to, to be honest.Kenny Shiels
“It’s one of our hardest fixtures and one I don’t look forward to, to be honest,” said Shiels afterwards.
“Now that it’s out of the way, we’ve only one more to go and hopefully they get into the top echelons of the league because I think they have a good enough and big enough squad to do that.”
There’s still one more derby clash to come this season on October 15th at Maginn Park and it could be one of the most crucial - since the 2003 relegation/promotion playoff -with relegation and European qualification potentially riding on the result.
Monday night’s result put City back into the driving seat for Europe and two points clear of Shamrock Rovers in third and Shiels looked a relieved man in his post-match interview.
“It could’ve finished 0-0, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I think we squeezed it out of them and made brave decisions and I’m delighted for the supporters who made the journey.
“I’m delighted for our players who made the commitment. I have to apologise to both sets of fans because we didn’t play with our normal amount of quality. The derby (factor) squeezes the quality out of the game.
“I thought we did enough to win the match. I don’t think I’m being unfair to Harps but you could so easily lose a game like that from a set-piece. You could go 1-0 down and it would exhaust all your energies.
“In the time I’ve been here after they’ve beaten us twice and drawn 2-2 they’ve took a dip as they’ve put so much into those games so I hope they can re-energise and get right up into the top five or six because they’re capable of it.”
The big news before kick-off was the notable omission of City forward, Ronan Curtis from the match day squad for disciplinary reasons.
“It wasn’t a major discipline but it breaches what we do and I have to do what’s best for Ronan as well,” he explained. “I think he will have learned from this. He’s been our best player and to leave him out before a big match like this was brave.
“He’s been our best player and we have to make sure there’s a structure in place where young players can fulfil their maximum potential. I have to guide the boy and I will do.
“I do what’s best for the boys and best for the development of our club.”