Galway United’s SSE Airtricity League premier division campaign enters a critical phase with Derry City the visitors to Eamonn Deacy Park tomorrow (7.45pm ).
The following week United host Sligo Rovers at the same venue, and manager Shane Keegan acknowledges the two matches are loaded with importance.
United must deliver against Derry, according to Keegan.
“It is a big game. The way we are looking at it now is that we want to be in a good position ahead of the free weekend for the FAI Cup semi-finals,” he says.
“We have two home games from which we have to try to pick up enough points to put us in a good position to have a proper lash in the four remaining games in October. It is very much a case of trying to position ourselves ahead of those games.”
Last Friday United suffered a hugely disappointing FAI Cup quarter-final loss to Limerick FC. Trailing by two goals in the closing stages, substitute Padraic Cunningham narrowed the gap with an opportunistic strike, but Limerick advanced to the penultimate round.
“It was disappointing. I don't think either side would have been overly happy with their performance really,” Keegan commented. "It was a game with nothing in it, both teams had a similar amount of chances, half chances. I don't think either side created a massive amount.
“Unfortunately the reason we are where we are is that an awful lot of the time in those 50-50 type games where neither team is particularly on top, we have come out on the wrong side of it. That is a thing we need to fix. How do we turn those 50-50 games into wins rather than defeats or draws?”
Derry are one of the most attractive outfits in the country, always willing to pass and probe, so Keegan expects a demanding encounter. “I think their style of play is arguably one of the most pleasing on the eye in the entire league.
“Credit has to go to Kenny Shiels for the job he is doing, in terms of where he has got them in the table and the style of football he is doing that with. Without knowing the ins and outs of their finances. I'd argue he is doing it with a budget that isn't quite up there with the teams he is competing with in the top half of the table. He is doing an absolutely fantastic job.
“If you were a neutral, they are a team people would enjoy going to watch. In a game like this we have to try to stop that being the case.
“We have to make it a much tougher game for them to play in, to stop their flow because when they get into a flow, they can open anybody up. If we can try to shut them down, to make it difficult, that has got to be our job, and then to go to create chances ourselves.”
Keegan accepts United need to recapture the drive and desire that was evident earlier in the campaign. “There is no doubt it has been missing in the last two games. It is something we need to rediscover.
“It was missing in Derry as well. We were 2-0 down inside 10 minutes. The football they played in those 10 minutes, I was sitting in the dugout thinking it was going to be six or seven. We managed to swing it completely back around, and if it wasn't for Ger Doherty pulling off a few great late saves, we would have come out of there with a draw instead of a 2-1 defeat.
"Too often we have put ourselves in a position where we start slow leaving us to chase the game. We need to get to the pitch of it from the very start.”