Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins not thinking about a top four finish
DERRY CITY's victory over Longford Town at Bishopsgate on Saturday night moved the Brandywell club to within three points of fourth placed Bohemians but Ruaidhri Higgins insists he's 'not even thinking about a top four' with 14 games remaining.
"It's a good position to be in but I'm absolutely not thinking about top four at all," said the Derry boss. "It's funny, when you lose a game as a manager it ruins your weekend and when you win a game as a manager you're straight away thinking about the next game. Drogheda come to the Brandywell next week and that's all I care about at this moment in time," he declared.
"To be honest I'm not really looking at who we can go above or who we can catch. I'm not! I think you can get caught out if you do that. You have to just focus on the particular game you're involved in, put all your energy into that and try and pick up three points in every game we go into."
It's a timeless coaching cliché aimed at taking the pressure off a team and to temper expectations as Higgins opted for the 'taking it one game at a time' approach but the importance of this battling 2-0 win against the league's basement club wasn't lost on the City management or players.
Longford are battling for Premier Division survival and haven't rolled over for anyone this season - with the exception of both Drogheda and St Pat's who appear to have their number. In fact until Saturday night, Derry had taken just one point from a possible six against the Midlanders who inflicted that shock 2-0 win on the Candy Stripes on the opening night of the campaign.
Higgins was prepared for a tough encounter against a team which had held Bohemians and Dundalk to 1-1 draws in recent weeks and needed two top class goals from Danny Lafferty and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe in either half to finish the job.
"I thought it was a really good win against difficult opposition," continued Higgins. "Longford's form in recent weeks has gathered momentum and they've improved as the season has gone on.
"I think it's a brilliant win for us and a well deserved win. This can be a difficult place to come to. So we showed hunger and desire to go and win the game and we've shown a few bits of quality within that. Our attitude, our professionalism and our discipline was really good.
"When you look at their fixtures, no one has put them away. They're in every single game. Tonight they were in it right until the end. They're a good team and have some very good players and good staff here. I felt in the build up it was going to be a very difficult game and it was. I think tonight was a really, really important win for us.
"Before tonight we've taken one point from six against Longford and I think it was important to go and win that game tonight. I can't praise the players enough for their attitude throughout the week. They had a real determination to go out and win the game."
With back to back home matches against Drogheda and Dundalk coming up - two teams in direct competition for that fourth spot - it's important Derry build on this result. And the performance on Saturday showed Higgins now has options.
Ronan Boyce's dead leg injury three minutes into the second half presented an opportunity for Higgins to introduce new signing Bastien Hery for his Derry City debut and, while understandably rusty after just five appearances this season for Bohs, his quality and composure on the ball allowed Derry to control the game for large periods.
And as Higgins pointed out afterwards, being able to bring the likes of Hery, Jamie McGonigle and Darren Cole off the bench shows he's now got strength in depth going into the business end of the season.
Add in the fact striking duo Junior and James Akintunde are beginning to click and show real chemistry - evident in the second goal which involved a clever dummy and a beautifully weighted pass and finish - and it's fair to say Higgins' team are beginning to click at just the right time.
The 3-5-2, 3-4-3 or 3-4-1-2 formations that Higgins appears to favour is getting the best out of the experienced Lafferty who offers another attacking dimension to the team while the fearless Evan McLaughlin produced another impressive display beyond his tender years.
It was far from a pretty performance but the result was all that mattered after two straight league defeats and the two goals, both involving Lafferty, Akintunde and Junior, were of the highest order.
"Danny Lafferty's was a really good goal," agreed Higgins. "James Akintunde set up both goals on the night and that's what he's got. He's got that quality and close control. He likes defenders around him and he can manipulate the ball. So he's done really well.
"The second goal was an absolutely outstanding piece of play. Danny's played a great ball into James who has protected it and Junior's made a great run off him and tucked it away well.
"So I'm delighted with the goals. It was really good team play and I think it was deserved over the 90 minutes.
"I felt we controlled the game. Bastien came on and gave us a bit of composure and a bit of class as well. It's great when you can bring Bastien off the bench and Jamie McGonigle and Darren Cole and Will Fitzgerald doesn't even come on tonight so that shows you our squad is probably a lot stronger than it was a couple of months ago."