It was a tale of contrasting characters when the Derry City and Shamrock Rovers managers gave their takes on the 2-2 draw played out between the sides on Tuesday evening in the Brandywell.
There was no surprise to hear that the Rovers boss Sami Ristila was happier with the result, or indeed that Derry manager Kenny Shiels had a few quotes of interest. The Candystripes boss suggested that the Hoops “didn’t show any character” in coming back from two goals down as Rovers resorted to lumping it long.
Meanwhile Ristila showed his cool Scandinavian demeanour as he hailed the Hoops team who he said “showed the character” to come back from a two goal deficit to keep his team above Derry City in the race for European qualification.
“Delighted with the draw obviously having come from 2-0 down,” was Ristila’s assessment speaking with Extratime.ie after the game. “In the second half we were excellent and we showed some fine form.
“When we had the ball, we had better quality in the second half than in the first. We wanted to win the game but we just needed to show that character in every game as we’ve been doing in the last couple of weeks.
“We played well and carried on from our previous results with the draw in Dundalk and the win at home to Galway. Getting an away point is good considering we were two goals down.
“I think the players showed the character to stay together and grind out the result today which was really important.”
That wasn’t how Kenny Shiels saw the game. He was very critical of Shamrock Rovers’ style of play. The Derry boss was obviously disappointed with not winning a game that his team led through two excellently taken first half goals in a three-minute spell by the impressive Ronan Curtis.
Shiels was no doubt frustrated with another Derry draw. That is their eleventh drawn league game – the most of any team in the division – and seventh in their last ten league matches. The result means they trail third-placed Rovers by a point with four games remaining.
“Rovers weren’t at the races,” said Shiels speaking to reporters after the match. “They weren’t in the game and we end up dropping two points. You can’t say they showed character to get back into it. They humped it up to two big giants, so there was no strategy to their game.”
The comments were at odds with Ristila’s view of the match or, indeed, of the goals that Rovers scored on the night (see here). Derry’s holding midfielder Aaron McEneff was caught in possession on the edge of the penalty area and Rovers recycled the ball quickly through three players before Gary McCabe smashed the ball home six minutes from the break.
The equaliser seven minutes from time was fortuitous in that it was a free-kick from Stephen McPhail from a wide right position that was allowed curl into the goal untouched by any player in the crowded box. However the free came from Simon Madden raiding deep down the right for Rovers only to be taken down by a tackle that earned Dean Jarvis a yellow card.
“I don’t want to be too sore on Shamrock Rovers,” said Shiels. “I’m sure they work hard in what they do, but they didn’t have a strategic plan to get back in the game.”
His opposite number had a differing view. “We had a game plan which we followed throughout even when we were 2-0 down. I thought the boys executed what we wanted.
“We stuck to the game plan today and it just shows you get your reward in the end. I thought in the second half we were excellent.”
The Hoops get the weekend off while Derry take on Dundalk in the Cup semi-final on Sunday. Rovers regroup to take on Bohemians in the Dublin derby at Dalymount Park at the end of next week and Ristila is glad of the break. Himself and Stephen Bradley could only name six players on the bench in Derry with the average substitute age just 18.
“We’ve had four games in ten days. Hopefully we can recover and get a few bodies back for the Bohs game. We haven’t been able to have a proper training session as it has been recovery and then preparation for the next game.
“It has been working well since the Cork game. The team has really looked that they are together. Our aim is to finish third and above Derry so that is why this is a massive result.”