Evan McLaughlin showed 'zero hesitation' when asked to take fifth penalty in Derry City FAI Cup win
RUAIDHRI HIGGINS insists penalty shootout hero Evan McLaughlin showed 'zero hesitation' when asked if he wanted to hit the fifth and decisive spotkick against Drogheda which ultimately saw Derry City progress to the second round of the FAI Cup.
Nathan Gartside produced two superb saves in the shootout to present the youngster with the opportunity to win the tie and he bravely stepped up and confidently dispatched it into the top corner as Derry won 4-2 at the Head in the Game Park.
Higgins explained his team had practised penalties in training the day before and praised his players for 'getting the job done' and in particular the bravery shown by youngster McLaughlin.
"It shows character," said Higgins. "Nathan made a couple of great saves and Evan McLaughlin hit the fifth penalty. I asked him; 'do you want the fifth one?' And there was zero hesitation and I knew by the look in his eyes that he fancied it and that's why I gave him the fifth one.
"But credit to them all for stepping up and showing courage. You could've easily thought in the back of your mind, 11 v 9 we haven't won the game but they still had the courage to step forward and even a couple of the lads who weren't in the first five still wanted to hit a penalty. We practised them yesterday in fairness and they stuck to their guns, stuck to their sides and went after it and thankfully we got the job done."
It was the most difficult tie of the round and despite Drogheda being down to nine men, Derry needed until the 96th minute to force extra time as Danny Lafferty expertly converted from the penalty spot after Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe had been fouled inside the box.
Higgins compared Drogheda's brave effort to the 2006 League Cup Final when nine man Derry won on penalties against Shelbourne at Brandywell Stadium and so he was delighted the shootout went in his side's favour on this occasion having struggled to break down a dogged Drogs defence.
"Strangely enough I felt we looked more inventive at 11 v 11 but it's something we have to find a solution for and improve. Still, we created enough chances to win the game."
Indeed, substitutes Patrick Ferry and Evan McLaughlin came so close in the final stages of extra-time and Higgins felt overall his team deserved to progress.
"The pitch was bumpy but our play was good 11 v 11. The pitch didn't stop us playing the first half. It was just getting over that mental barrier. I'm sure when we went down to 10 men the St Pat's performance was in people's minds. It's hard to shake that.
"When you have a young team and are slightly inexperienced I think you can overthink things. I just thought our final ball from wide areas wasn't good enough but we're in the next round and that's all that matters.
"Drogheda were a credit to their club and the players were absolutely brilliant and left everything on the pitch.
"It reminded me so much of the 2006 Final when I was playing for Derry and we went down to nine men against Shelbourne and it gives you something to hang on to and you fight for each other and they definitely did that.
"I said to them the last couple of days, 'as long as Derry City is in the next round of the cup, we don't really care how we get there'."