IF last week’s defeat against Bohemians has taught us and the City players anything it is that there aren’t going to be any easy games in the Premier Division.
Losing to Bohs was a reality check for some of the gulf in class between the first division and the top tier.
I received some negative comments about my aspirations for City this year; that remaining in the Premier Division would be success, with some suggesting that I was being pessimistic. It’s going to take time for the City players to adjust to the Premier Division.
The pace of the game, the way in which City were pressed when in possession, and Bohs’ strength and fitness was nothing like what they had faced in the previous two seasons.
City were given a lot of respect by teams such as Athlone Town and Wexford, who would stand off because they knew they couldn’t go toe-to-toe with Colin Healy’s side, and had to find another way to win.
However, in the Premier Division, teams are going to go after City. They aren’t going to stand off and allow them time and space on the ball. That is probably the biggest difference between the divisions and something that the players will have to get used to.
City’s midfielders are going to have to be brave and try to get on the ball even when there’s an opponent close by. Otherwise, defenders will have no option but to just go long all the time.
I think the players will be the first to admit that they didn’t perform against Bohs. They looked nervous, which was understandable considering the occasion. Those nerves did affect their performance and seemed to disappear only after Ruairi Keating scored late in the game.
They wouldn’t have dwelled too much on that game, perhaps spent one morning talking about it, but after that they would have shifted their focus to Derry. They would have learned a lot from that Bohs game.
As with City last weekend, there will be a lot of expectation from the home fans for Derry to put on a show in their first home game of the season.
Can City use that to their advantage? Will they be able to frustrate Derry, with Cork's Adam O'Reilly in their ranks, and their fans by doing as much as they can to slow the game down?
Will they take their time at set-pieces and exaggerate injuries more when they do receive a free-kick?
Derry supporters will be going to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium expecting to see their side steamroll City based on the difference between the two club’s budgets and that Derry are a side challenging for the title whereas City are a few years off that.
I expect a few changes in the City side and a change in formation. After a much improved second-half display against Bohs, I expect Healy to stick with the 4-3-3 system that City used in the second half.
The substitutions did make a difference against Bohs and I expect Matt Healy and Darragh Crowley to start.
Healy heaped particular praise on Healy and explained the reason for his absence from the team — the player had a thigh injury.
I would imagine Healy has recovered from that, and he is a player who will be brave to get on the ball and is very influential in the team. Crowley’s inclusion is a no-brainer. Derry are going to have a lot of possession and Crowley works so hard for the team.
He might not be an automatic choice for some fans, but I bet you most City players will want him in the starting 11 because of the shift he puts in for the team.
He never lets the team down and contributes going forward as well. I might be called pessimistic again, but a point would be a fantastic result.