Admitting their levels dropped far below expectations in Monday’s 4-1 defeat at St Patrick’s Athletic, Derry City defender Mark Connolly insists it’s imperative his team bounce back when Bohemians visit the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on Friday.
A fortnight ago Derry were poised to open a four-point gap at the top of the table following Shamrock Rovers’ surprising back-to-back defeats to Drogheda United and Cork City.
But they lost 1-0 at Sligo Rovers before last Friday’s 0-0 home draw with Shelbourne. Monday’s defeat in Inchicore means they are now four points behind the four-in-a-row chasing champions, level on points with St Patrick’s.
“We just were not good enough,” said Connolly of Monday’s humbling by the Camac.
“It was very unlike us not to reach the standards we know we can. That is probably the most disappointing part. The result and the performance, especially, were disappointing.”
A trip to Dublin 72 hours after facing Shelbourne - whereas St Patrick’s had played at UCD - wasn’t used as an excuse.
“We kind of spoke about it. We can look into that factor,” said Connolly. “But we just were not good enough on Monday. St Pat’s were the better team and deserved to win. We just have to bounce back [on Friday].”
Bohemians, managed by Derry native Declan Devine make the trek north on the back of Monday’s defeat at Cork City, where the early-season leaders were undone by a late goal.
Staying on the coat-tails of Rovers is now vital for Derry’s title aspirations.
“You need to stay as close to them as you can or whoever is at the top. Going into the break, we want to make sure we get a win, and then get ready for a few big months up ahead,” said Connolly, who returned to action last Friday after almost three months out with a hamstring injury.
“We back ourselves to regain the levels we’re capable of,” said the 31-year-old. “To be still where we are and not hit our levels is good. There’s a standard set and we haven’t reached it yet.
“That’s the nature of football, when things are good, you feel it. When the results don’t go so well, you suffer. You can’t just wait for the good days, for good results, for people patting you on the back and telling you how good you are.
“It also shows your character when things aren’t going so well, when the chips are down; it shows you who is going to stand up and be accounted for.
“It is a difficult time. There is going to be a lot of criticism coming our way. You just have to deal with it. Hopefully there will be a reaction.”
Derry have confirmed that striker Colm Whelan will miss the remainder of the season because of an ACL injury. Captain Patrick McEleney will miss Friday’s match with a recurrence of an Achilles injury while winger Michael Duffy and defender Cameron Dummigan need to prove their fitness.
Bohemians, who’ve dropped to fourth following just one win from their last six games, continue without Dean Williams, but fellow striker Johnny Afolabi and winger Dylan Connolly come back into contention.
Tonight’s fixtures (7.45 unless stated)
Cork City v Dundalk
Derry City v Bohemians
Drogheda United v St Patrick’s Athletic
Shamrock Rovers v UCD (8.0)
Shelbourne v Sligo Rovers
Longford Town v Finn Harps
Kerry FC v Athlone Town
Treaty United v Cobh Ramblers
Waterford v Bray Wanderers
Wexford v Galway United