'Let's attack second half of the season with vigour' says Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins

RUAIDHRI HIGGINS has challenged his Derry City team to ‘attack the second half of the season with vigour’ having consigned a seven match winless run to the past at UCD on Friday night.

The City boss admitted ‘relief’ was his overriding emotion after watching the Candy Stripes grind out victory which ended a run of games which saw their title charge nose-dive in recent weeks.

Having netted nine goals in two meetings with the Students this season already, Derry were fully expected to bring that winless sequence to a halt at the Belfield.

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However, history will tell you that nothing is ever straightforward for Derry City. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t vintage Derry under Higgins but the result was all that mattered in this instance and it was almost two months in the making.

Derry City striker Mattie Smith on the attack against UCD in Dublin on Friday night. Photograph by Kevin Moore.

Will Patching’s 53rd minute penalty - his ninth goal of the season - was enough to decide the match and hand Higgins troops a 10th league win of the campaign and move Derry to within one point of second placed Dundalk.

When it was pointed out in the post-match media interviews that Derry’s last win was against St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on April 29th, it was a statistic Higgins didn’t need reminding of.

“You didn’t need to remind me,” he laughed. “Relief, absolutely. We’ve played better in games we’ve drawn and if you look at the Rovers game we lost that game. but honestly I didnt’ really care as long as we picked up the three points. That was vital for the group and for us moving forward that we came here and won.

“We were defensively nice and compact in the second half and I was just delighted with the clean sheet as well. I think we were a wee bit better in the second half but the win was the most important thing,

“You never feel comfortable 1-0 up. You never feel comfortable 2-0 up. Football can be ruthless so I never felt comfortable for a minute. When the final whistle went it was just relief,” he admitted.

Despite the recent run of form, Higgins was always confident his team was moving in the right direction. The injuries to key players certainly didn’t help and on Friday night that lack of depth in the squad was again evident with a fresh-faced substitute’s bench.

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“We’ve come here tonight without five senior players,” lamented Higgins. “We probably have 17 or 18 senior players and five of them were unavailable today. It’s difficult. And it’s the quality that we’re missing. They are big big players for us. But the lads tonight stuck together , dug in and dug out a win we badly needed.

“The players were so used to winning and we were on a brilliant run. I think our start, people got very, very excited by it and from day one I knew we would have a period of the season that would be difficult. Hopefully we’ve had it and can move on and attack the second half of the season with real vigour, elevate the club and take it in the right direction.

“If you take the last number of weeks aside, the last seven results, I think there’s been good progress and we have to continue with that and try to grow from this result tonight.”