Derry City will find strength through adversity and a derby victory - says Ruaidhri Higgins

DERRY CITY boss Ruaidhri Higgins believes his players can find strength through adversity and hopes victory over derby rivals Finn Harps on Friday night can put an end to the most 'difficult moment' of his fledgling managerial career.

By Simon Collins
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 1:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 1:47 pm
Seamas Keogh races away to celebrate his last gasp winner against Derry City on Monday night at the Sligo Showgrounds. Photograph by Kevin Moore.
Seamas Keogh races away to celebrate his last gasp winner against Derry City on Monday night at the Sligo Showgrounds. Photograph by Kevin Moore.

Higgins has called for a 'brave performance' from his team after an alarming run of results which has resulted in a 13 point swing at the top with Shamrock Rovers racing ominously into a seven point advantage with one match to go before the midseason interval.

Three straight defeats to Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Sligo Rovers has rather prematurely led to criticism from some sections of the Derry fanbase on social media this week despite the club's lofty position in the league table.

The unfettered praise that was heaped on Higgins during the club's eye-catching nine match unbeaten sequence at the start of the season - the club's best ever start to a top flight campaign - has given way to murmurs of discontent in some quarters as City's form dipped in recent weeks.

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And yet, sitting second in the table at this stage of the season underlines the clear signs of progress that have steadily been made since Higgins' arrival last year.

The last gasp 2-1 defeat to managerless Sligo Rovers on Monday night at the Showgrounds was described by Higgins as the 'worst performance of the season' - a game which marked his 50th game in charge of the Brandywell outfit. Ironically it was the same venue where he began his promising managerial career with a 1-0 victory over the Bit O'Red in April 2021.

A 2-1 home defeat to rivals Finn Harps followed just around the corner and Higgins will be hoping the reverse happens on Friday night as he expects a response from his troops against the Ballybofey men.

He's overcome several major blows during his playing career and now Higgins is hoping a derby win at Brandywell will galvanise his team as he navigates his way through his biggest challenge so far as a manager.

"The club has moved forward but this is an obstacle we have to overcome and no better way to try and do it than in a local derby in the Brandywell," said Higgins.

"When you look at our team we have a few players who have been around the block but we don't have loads of players in their late 20s early 30s. Some of our younger players have come from the First Division as well so it's new to people.

"I suppose if you can take one plus out of this (recent results), it's that these experiences will make us stronger going forward once we get out of it.

"If you can't get the fire in your belly for that one (Finn Harps match) then forget about it. But we will be going all out to pick up three points. We need the crowd right behind us. We need everyone sticking together and we need to go out and put on a real brave performance on Friday, that's the aim."

An injury to Cameron Dummigan who limped out of Monday's defeat in Sligo compounded Higgins' recent woes and while he admits his threadbare squad is being tested to the full with Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy and Ciaron Harkin on the sidelines, he's not using it as an excuse for the recent run which has garnered just two wins in their last nine outings.

"The first half of the season has been top heavy and there's been a lot of Friday, Monday, Fridays and the depth has maybe hurt us. Again, it's not an excuse. Sligo don't have the biggest squad in the world either. Listen, we're going through a poor moment in our season but I've no doubt we will get out of it and hopefully we get out of it on Friday night.

"We're getting injuries to key personnel but we have to rise above it. Meet it head on and accept it. Other clubs are getting injuries as well .Ours seem to be happening to real key players but we have to accept the challenge ahead of us and crack on."

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Derry City skipper Eoin Toal aiming for North West derby win over Finn Harps