Derry City's home run will come: insists Ruaidhri Higgins

RUAIDHRI Higgins is confident that it's only a matter of time before Derry City clinch their first home win of the season but the Brandywell boss insists his team must become more ruthless in front of goal.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 11:02 pm
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 11:04 pm
Longford players are dejected as James Akintunde celebrates his late, late equaliser. Photograph by Kevin Moore.

It's been SEVEN home games without a win so far this season and two in the space of a week for new manager Higgins who had hoped switching around the home dressing room and dugout would help end that dismal run.

Whether or not the home form is a psychological impact of an empty stadium, Higgins claims his intention wasn't superstitious but simply a bid to change the team's matchday routine and provide a 'fresh environment' for his players.

"My thinking behind it was obviously the Mark Farren mural is on this side of the stadium so I thought a change in environment for the players coming across to this side, I just wanted to change it up," explained Higgins. "We're well within our rights, it's our ground. I just decided to change it up, nothing too superstitious or anything like that. The home form hasn't been great but I just thought it would be something fresh."

Derry certainly started the game with a freshness and dominated the ball for almost the entirety of the first half. The Candy Stripes were unfortunate not to have taken advantage of that quickfire start as Eoin Toal's header was turned over the crossbar by Michael Kelly.

The City skipper then saw another header cleared instinctively off the line by Longford captain Dean Zambra as a well organised Longford held on.

Longford striker Rob Manley's close range strike on 75 minutes was totally against the run of play but Derry dug deep to avoid a second defeat of the season to the newly promoted Midlanders.

Substitute Patrick Ferry, on his first appearance of the season, caused the visitors problems in the final stages with a long range strike which was put behind by Kelly.

David Parkhouse rises to head this ball under pressure from the Longford defence.

And in the final 30 seconds of the three additional minutes of stoppage time, Ferry drew two Longford defenders to the ball which broke to James Akintunde and the strike buried his shot into the net for a deserved equaliser.

Higgins had mixed emotions at the final whistle and while he felt it was the team's best performance under his management, the Limavady man reckons they must punish the opposition when on top.

"Daire (Doyle) has got them well organised but I think we'll all agree that on chances created, we deserved to win the game. Possession of the ball, we deserved to win the game. It's two fold. A part of me is gutted we didn't win it and I felt we deserved to but a part of me is really proud of the team after going 1-0 down so late and recovering and digging out a 1-1 draw. There's pride from that end of it.

"I felt in terms of our attacking play and possession of the ball I felt it was our best performance comfortably. It's hard to be critical because they've given absolutely everything again. When you're on top in games and create chance after chance you have to be ruthless and they're games we probably should be winning given our dominance in the game."

The club's last home win was a 2-0 victory over Shelbourne on October 23rd last but Higgins isn't overly worried about the Brandywell form.

"We will win at home," he predicted. "We've created chances against Finn Harps , although we weren't brilliant, we created a lot of chances and we created a lot of chances tonight. It will come. The good thing about this group of players is that they're very resilient and keep going. I'm very proud of them that they keep going until the end and I'm delighted that from the minute I walked through the door they've given me everything. So I have no complaints from that end.

"It just shows the character within the group and I feel over time it will get better. It's coming," he added. "We will get our home win soon. I think we're improving gradually."

Moments before Longford's opening strike Derry had claims for a penalty when Michael McDonnell appeared to bring down Akintunde inside the box when the Englishman had got in behind the defender.

Referee Rob Harvey waved play on but Higgins, without the benefit of a television replay, said he would be 'shocked' if it wasn't a 'stone wall' penalty when he eventually reviews the incident.

"I don't see why he (Akintunde) would go to ground if he had a free shot at goal, so to me it was a stone wall penalty but I would need to see it back."

Akintunde's goal was his second consecutive strike and he's emerging as a key player for Higgins.

"I'm not a big fan of singling players out but I thought James Akintunde and Will Patching were a real creative force for us.

"Will controlled large part of the game and James gave us a bit of a cutting edge. The two of them were outstanding, as they all were, but I just felt those two had really good performances."