Derry City won't be giving up after Shamrock Rovers draw says Ruaidhri Higgins
City looked on course for a victory that would have blown the title race wide open after Cameron McJannet headed home shortly after the hour mark at a packed Brandywell Stadium, and should have made it 2-0 when Adam O'Reilly saw a gilt edged opportunity go inches wide of the far post minutes later.
What could yet proved the defining moment of the season arrived with seven minutes left when Shane McEleney was adjudged to have brought down Graham Burke, denying him a goal scoring opportunity in the process. The contact looked minimal but penalty and red card was referee Paul McLaughlin's verdict leaving Higgins and Derry frustrated.
"Shane hasn't fouled him. Graham Burke has slowed down; there was minimal, minimal contact. He's used all his experience, won his team a penalty and put it away," lamented the Derry manager, "I think you have to be strong there and know exactly what the player is doing. That's not me being bitter, I just think when I look at the incident in isolation I genuinely don't think it is a penalty.
"Brian Maher is convinced, absolutely convinced - and Brian always gives you an honest assessment - he's convinced it is 100 per cent not a penalty. I think their player maybe understands that as well. He has bought it to be fair to him."
The result maintains Rovers’ four point advantage at the top of the table with six games to go and Higgins stressed no one at the Brandywell is about to throw the towel in.
"Without a shadow of a doubt it is a difficult one to take," he admitted, "As I said we could have been two in front and then we end up drawing the game but the players know we are in a good place. We are playing well and we are capable of winning a lot of matches between now and the end of the season.
"All we can do is focus on that. We have been through a lot of heartache in recent times and we have recovered. We've shown real character and I know for certain that is what the players will do again.
"I think with the way we've been playing over the last few months that we are capable of putting a run together but, listen, we can only do we what we can do and focus on ourselves. One thing I know for certain is this team and this club is going in the right direction and only going one way.
"I'm delighted with the progress the team is making. We'll give everything to win every match. It might not happen but we will do everything we can to do that.
"You've seen how we've reacted to losing a couple of penalty shoot-outs; from that moment we’ve been absolutely brilliant. I expect the same again and I'm sure we'll get it because we have got really good senior players in the dressing room and really good staff here.”