Institute vs Dungannon Swifts
Institute coach Eamonn Seydak believes the club should be targeting a European play-off spot heading into their final ten games of the season.
Seydak, who was part of the squad that won the Championship title last season before hanging up his boots, has joined interim manager Kevin Doherty’s backroom staff along with Paul McLaughlin and Mark Scoltock.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for the temporary new management unit, with a narrow 2-1 defeat to Ballymena United a fortnight ago followed by an impressive 3-0 victory over basement team Ards on Friday.
Dungannon Swifts are their next opponents, a team that have shown a serious improvement in form in the second half of the season following the arrival of manager Kris Lindsay, who replaced now Coleraine boss Rodney McAree.
Both games between the sides this season have been very close, drawing 0-0 in the Brandywell in September before Swifts came from behind to win 2-1 at Stangmore Park in November in controversial circumstances.
In recent weeks, Dungannon have defeated Glentoran, Cliftonville (twice), Coleraine, Crusaders and Glenavon, as well as drawing with Ballymena, and Seydak said that their opponents on Saturday will come into the game high on confidence, with Lindsay’s men one point ahead of ‘Stute who have a game in hand.
“I saw a league table based on recent form this week and Dungannon were second, so it shows how well they’re doing of late,” the coach told the Derry News. “They play really good football and they have a lot of talented players, including their two strikers Daniel Hughes and Paul McElroy.
“They’ll be dangerous and the Brandywell surface will suit their style of play in the same way that it suits us, but we’re coming off a good result ourselves too, so it should be an exciting and close game.”
The new management team earned their first three points on Friday thanks to a first half goal from Dean Curry and a sensational strike from both Jake Morrow and Ronan Doherty, and Seydak said the nature of the performance in both attack and defence was pleasing.
“It was an important three points for us, but we’re not looking at it as a case of distancing ourselves from the bottom, it’s about looking forward. We have ambitions of seventh place, and the whole group are looking ahead and targeting that,” explained Seydak. “’Stute have been playing great football all season, but on Friday I think the most pleasing thing for me was the performance across the park.
“Colm McLaughlin was immense at the back, wee Japper (Ryan Morrow) looked back to his best and was sticking his head in everywhere. Marty Gallagher was fantastic for the whole game under the high ball and in a swirling wind.
“Even as far as Joe McCready up top – his work rate was superb and then we obviously got a few great goals which topped it off.”
With safety all but secured – 18 points ahead of bottom placed Ards and 15 in front of Newry in the relegation play-off position – ‘Stute know that a win on Saturday will lift them into the seventh place European play-off spot, two points ahead of Dungannon and with a game in hand. The teams who finish fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh face off for a Europa League spot.
“There’s a chance for seventh place there and a European play-off – it’s far from impossible. There’s no reason why Institute can’t be playing European football under the Brandywell lights next season,” he insisted. “We have to keep building and keep believing in ourselves. The boys have been immense from day one, and I think it would be just rewards for them.”
With the departures of manager Paddy McLaughlin, midfielder Aaron Harkin and captain and leading goal scorer Michael McCrudden in recent weeks, Seydak agreed that things are slowly returning to normal for ‘Stute, and if they continue to focus on their football on Saturday they could come away with another vital three points as they step closer to their European ambitions.
“The beauty of football is that it waits for no man,” stated the coach. “No matter what is going on off the field, the next game is always just around the corner and you have to be focused for that.
“In our first game as a new management group against Ballymena, I thought it was a really decent performance and it’s up to the players to maintain that high standard that has gotten them 32 points already this season.
“Players come and go, managers come and go, but in the here and now this is the group that we have and it’s a group that can definitely push on in this final stretch of the season.”
While his new position is something he never would have foreseen even a month ago, Seydak said he is enjoying his coaching role amongst the squad that he played alongside last season.
“Although I was playing last year, I definitely had an element of a ‘senior role’. I’ve really enjoyed these last few weeks, and I understand now what Paddy McLaughlin and other managers would mean when they talked about being proud,” explained the former defender. “When I was playing, I was never as nervous as I was during the last two games. It’s not because you don’t believe in them, it’s because you just want the boys to do well so badly, and you know what they’re capable of. It’s definitely a very different feeling.
“Working with Kev (Doherty) is fantastic too. He’s a top man and he puts loads of effort and commitment into everything and helping the club succeed. Mark Scoltock and Paul McLaughlin have been superb too, so it’s been an easy transition to come in,” he concluded.
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