KENNY Shiels believes Cork City are good value for their unassailable 24 point advantage over Derry City at the top of the table and reckons his side must be at their very best to get a positive result from tonight’s clash at Maginn Park (K.o. 7.45 p.m.)
Shiels has been hugely impressed with the Rebels’ ‘impeccable’ campaign so far and believes John Caulfield has the perfect blend of players at his disposal.
When the teams last met at the beginning of April in Turners’ Cross, Cork dominated in a comfortable 3-0 victory but Shiels believes circumstances have very much changed since that encounter.
“We know we have to be at our best to get a result here,” said Shiels. “I think if you reflect on our season, when you lose Ryan McBride and Rory Patterson in one fell swoop - that’s a big hole in any team.
“If Cork lost Sean Maguire - which they’re going to - then they would miss him immensely as we have missed players. Losing Rory has been a big blow for us.”
Patterson is unlikely to start tonight’s visit of the league leaders but his presence on the bench will provide a major boost for Shiels’ troops.
We’re 24 points away from Cork after 17 games so you have to say they’re hugely ahead of us and we can’t deny that fact.Kenny Shiels
“We have to wait and see what reaction he gets from today’s (Thursday) training session and then we’ll take it from there and see if we put him on the bench or not,” said Shiels.
And after lambasting his players for the concession of three goals from set-pieces in last Friday’s 3-2 defeat to Bray at the Carlisle Grounds, the Co. Derry man expects a positive response in Buncrana tonight.
“We’re looking for a positive response in front of our own support and we’ll be pushing hard to get a result. Everyone’s focused on that. We can’t dilly-dally. We’ve got to increase our intensity and work hard against the ball.
“Set pieces are a part of the game. Obviously you look at the weaknesses you had in your most recent game and try to address that and we’ve done that hopefully.
“There were a few lapses last week but we dominated the game but the indicators are there that we’re due a change of luck.
“We can’t overlook the fact Cork are so dominant. It’s not luck. They have a good dynamic in the team. What they have is impeccable. They’ve won practically every game apart from one draw. And to be into the second half of the season and have that statistic tells you something good about them.
“We’re 24 points away from Cork after 17 games so you have to say they’re hugely ahead of us and we can’t deny that fact.”
Cork City boss, John Caulfield expects to meet a Derry side intent on ending his side’s incredible unbeaten run but Shiels insists he will be content if his players simply produce a good performance and leave everything on the pitch.
“We’ll approach it with positivity because we’ve got good players. We’re up against a tough opponent. That will bring some more motivation for our players. I’m confident of a good performance.
“I don’t know if a good performance will bring victory. If our quality is not as good as theirs and they beat us because they’re better, then we’ll take it on the chin and move on.
“Cork deserve so much credit for what they’ve achieved. They’ve won every game except a draw away to Galway and you can’t say there’s not something there.
“We play football in all areas of the pitch because that’s what football was created for. They don’t! This isn’t a criticism, this is fact.
“They play long and win second balls.
“They’re strong, physical and they’re not a team that isn’t particularly coached to play, they’re a trained team.
“They will fight for second balls. And on top of being a trained team, they have four or five technically quality players in (Stephen) Dooley, (Sean) Maguire, (Karl) Sheppard and players who can deal with the ball well and then they have players who can fight.
“They have a really good blend.”