Both visiting teams set up defensively with Bohemians executing their counter attacking game plan to near perfection last Friday night as Will Patching needed to convert a spotkick to salvage a share of the spoils.
Despite laying siege to the St Pat’s defence on Monday night in a much improved team display, Derry failed to find a breakthrough and were left frustrated with just two points to show from a possible six during a tough three day period.
It was a particularly hard pill to swallow for Higgins whose side enjoyed 68 per cent of possession, completed 609 successful passes and had 20 shots on goal compared to St Pat’s two attempts!
The results saw the Candy Stripes surrender leadership of the Premier Division table, a position they held for seven weeks since defeating previous leaders St Pat’s at Brandywell on March 18th, just six games into the season.
The third placed Saints were set up to stifle Derry on Monday night having clearly been wounded by that 4-0 demolition job just 10 days previously. And while Tim Clancy’s men attempted to keep compact, Derry created plenty of openings but were either denied by Joe Anang or were guilty of overplaying.
The Candy Stripes totally dominated the visitors to the Lone Moor Road venue and Higgins claimed his team had enough chances to win ‘two or three games’.
‘Lost for words’ and ‘baffled’ was how the City boss chose to describe his feelings after watching the Saints get back on the team bus for Inchicore with a valuable point on board.
Pat’s are the latest to come to Derry and ‘park the bus’ and Higgins believes his side must now expect teams to come and set up defensively, urging his players to be more ruthless in front of goal.
“It’s funny. You win 4-0 in Richmond and everyone is talking about the performance being of the highest standard. I felt if we got a couple of goals the other night and a wee bit of luck then we would be talking about the performance ina similar vein. So it’s just a matter of putting our opportunities away.
“We created enough chances to win two or three games to be honest but they’ve (St Pat’s) come here for a point,” added Higgins. “They haven’t come out and played at all and we’re probably going to have to get used to that against certain teams.”
A team consisting of Chris Forrester, Darragh Burns, Billy King and Eoin Doyle were completely devoid of artistry and invention, intent on keeping Derry at bay, even when they had a promising counter in the dying embers of the match, Clancy frantically instructing his players to slow the play down from the touchline. Those negative tactics could be interpreted as a sign of respect for this stylish City team but that didn’t console a disappointed Higgins.
“They didn’t come out and play at all. They came for a point and fair play they got it but they didn’t deserve it. We deserved all three points and I don’t think anyone can argue with that.”
Higgins expected the Dubliners to sit back and hit on the counter attack, a tactic which fashioned Bohemians opening goal in the 1-1 draw three nights previously at Brandywell.
“We felt they would sit in and counter attack us but they didn’t really cause us threats from the counter. We were better at stopping counter attacks tonight than we were on Friday.
“Performance levels I’m delighted with it and with what the players put in but I’m disappointed we didn’t have that real ruthless streak you need at this level to win matches.
“Compared to our performance on Friday night, it was night and day. Brilliant, more like us. But I’m lost for words, I don’t know how we didn’t win the game.
“We just need to be more ruthless at the top end and take responsibility because our play right up to that bit was really, really good. We passed the ball at speed, we passed it forward at speed and our movement off the ball was brilliant. I’m baffled at how we didn’t come away with three points,” he added.
Eoin Toal’s first half header, Patrick McEleney’s strike off the post and a wasted chance when Derry found themselves three on two on the break late on were the best of the home side’s goal scoring opportunities. Higgins felt his side could’ve been out of sight.
“They’re probably the best ones but we had seven or eight good opportunities and three or four good chances. They’re (St Pat’s) leaving here absolutely buzzing with a point whereas we’re absolutely devastated. We didn’t get what we deserved. The ball just didn’t cross the line for us and that was the difference.
“We had a gilt edged chance on a counter attack and were a bit too slow breaking. We had three or four really good opportunities and seven or eight half chances.
“The keeper made a great save from Eoin Toal, Matty Smith got in and smashed one across the face after a few minutes. We had three or four where we should’ve shot and passed and overplayed a wee bit.
“Jamie’s (McGonigle) had a good chance at the back post so there were good chances all night and on another night you’re leaving here with a comfortable victory but it wasn’t to be.The only thing missing was putting the ball in the back of the net and that’s what wins you games or doesn’t.”
With Rovers up next Higgins believes it’s the perfect fixture to motivate his troops. The Hoops certainly have the momentum in the race for the title having won seven of their last eight matches but the Derry boss insists his team have nothing to fear going to Tallaght.
“I can’t wait for it. You can see over the last month or two why they’re back to back league champions. They know how to get the job done but we’re ready for it and it’s a game we’re really looking forward to and one we’re going to go there and try to win.”
When asked if it was a potential ‘crunch’ clash in terms of the title race, Higgins answered: “It’s too early to be talking about crunch matches and not losing anything.
“Our aim at the start of the season was to close the gap substantially. I think we’ll achieve that but for us to really elevate ourselves as a team we need to be ambitious and try and win at these places. And we will have absolutely no fear of going there.
“We don’t want to go there and get our bellies tickled or roll over, we want to go there and win and play on the frontfoot.”