Derry City seeking pole position going into midseason break

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THURSDAY NIGHT football could be the norm for Derry City Football Club over the next couple of months and tonight could be a significant one in the race for the league title.

The Candy Stripes will attempt to go into the midseason break on the back of three straight victories which could potentially leave them in pole position for the first time since March.

Elsewhere Shelbourne travel to an in-form Waterford who have won their last four games at the RSC, scoring 14 times!

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Damien Duff's men just need a single point to guarantee their position on the summit of the Premier Division table going into the break.

Upon their return they will have 14 league games to secure a first title since that infamous 2006 campaign when they pipped the Candy Stripes to the championship on goal difference on a dramatic final day.

Higgins, who was part of that Derry team in that memorable 2006 campaign, isn't looking that far ahead or contemplating possible scenarios. He's not concerned about how his rivals get on tonight at the RSC or how Shamrock Rovers fare against St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park.

He's solely focussed on the job at hand at Dalymount Park where he knows his team must dig out an important result against his good friends Alan Reynolds and his assistant Stephen O'Donnell.

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“Listen I'll just take a win now regardless of where it leaves us," said the Derry boss. "If you want to offer me a win now I'll take it and run but no, regardless of what other teams do, I just want us to keep a bit of form going that we're showing."

James Akintunde of Bohemians celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the SSE Airtricity Men's Premier Division match between Bohemians and Derry City at Dalymount Park in Dublin.James Akintunde of Bohemians celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the SSE Airtricity Men's Premier Division match between Bohemians and Derry City at Dalymount Park in Dublin.
James Akintunde of Bohemians celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the SSE Airtricity Men's Premier Division match between Bohemians and Derry City at Dalymount Park in Dublin.

Finding consistency will key for any team with eyes on the title.

"It's really important, but things can change very, very quickly in this league. You can go from a lot of doom and gloom to a lot of optimism very, very quickly and we need to try and double down on what we've done over the last couple of games and as I said, try and stick more points on the board. If you look at it, after this game there's only 13 league games remaining.

“I think consistency will be the key and as you said if you can put four, five, six wins together it'll put you in a good position so hopefully that's us. We have a couple of wins now and hopefully we can get a third one on Thursday.”

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He's already come up against his former assistant 'Rennie' and ex-Dundalk teammate O'Donnell in the reverse fixture back in May when Mickey Duffy's 85th minute winner earned a precious win for Higgins' side.

The City boss knows his side has grown in confidence since that game and clicked into gear at the perfect time but he doesn't expect any favours from the Bohs management.

“They've got good players, I know Rennie obviously very very well, I know Stevie O'Donnell very, very well, Derek Pender I know them all really well and one thing for sure is that they'll be well drilled and well coached and they'll have a plan to come up against us."We'll obviously have a plan to go up against them. Listen, it's not about me or Higgsy or Connor [Loughery] or Stevie or Rennie, it's not about us it's about the players on the pitch and hopefully our players can go off for a few days with a big win under their belts.

"We look at a real attacking threat at the minute and hopefully that can continue. We're keeping clean sheets as well which is good. It's a good recipe so hopefully the players have tasted that now over the last week or two and are desperate to continue it.

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“We finished the game [against Bohs at Brandywell] really strong which has been pleasing and we've finished quite a few games really strong.

"They obviously have different ways of playing. They've changed shape and systems a fair bit so you have to prepare for different scenarios and I know that they'll be eager for the transfer window to be opened so they can get in some players and put a stamp on it themselves.

"They've had a couple of weeks with no game they'll have had loads of time to prepare and come up with a plan they beat us but as I said in that period as well we've done well and got points on the board and we’ve gained a bit of confidence so listen may the best team win, let's go and have a go and see what happens.”

The match will be the third meeting between Bohs and the Candy Stripes this season with Reynolds determined to finish on a high before the league takes a break.Goals from Dayle Rooney and James Akintunde gave Bohs a 2-1 victory over Higgins’ men when the sides met at Dalymount in March.Reynolds said: “We need a really big night and a really big shift from everyone at Dalymount as we are expecting a tough game against a really good side.“We know plenty about Derry and they know plenty about us. We’ve beaten them here before I came in and they’ve beaten us in the Brandywell.“But we played well against them, and had chances to get a result. There has been very little between the sides but Derry have come into a bit of form now.“They are only two points off the top of the table so we are under no illusions about how difficult this game is going to be and how hard we are going to have to work to get a result.”Bohs’ last outing saw them succumb to a 2-1 defeat away to Reynolds’ former club Waterford at the RSC a fortnight ago.They went into that game looking like they had turned a corner - buoyed by an encouraging injury-time 2-2 draw against St Patrick’s Athletic and a 3-0 win away to Sligo Rovers - so the result and the performance were of frustration for Reynolds.He said: “We played well for 25 to 30 minutes but we weren’t good enough after that, and we failed to deal with Waterford’s direct play. But that has been the story of our season so far and it has to change. We need to have consistency.”Those inconsistency issues predate Reynolds’ arrival to the club in March, and he is determined to make changes to his squad when the transfer window opens next month in an effort to address it.One man who will not be part of those plans is Bart Kukulowicz, who has returned to Poland after his contract was terminated by mutual consent, while Luke Matheson is due to return to parent club Bolton Wanderers next week when his loan spell comes to an end.Reynolds added: “Bart hasn’t been in the team as often as he would have liked this year, so we both felt that it was the right time for him to move on and find a new club. We thank him for his efforts and I wish him all the best for the future.“We all know that we need to strengthen next month. We have some very good players at the club but there are clearly certain areas where we have to improve if we are to push on.“We have watched a lot of players and we have spoken to a lot of players. It is an extremely competitive market out there for all clubs at the moment but we know the areas we need to prioritise.”

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