Re-energised Derry City prepare for tough test at title chasing St Pat's
RUAIDHRI HIGGINS expects his good friend Stephen O'Donnell to take St Patrick's Athletic the distance in the race for the title this season but there will be no favours offered as the Derry City boss attempts to derail the Saints' charge in Inchicore tonight. (K.o. 7.45p.m).
Higgins is expecting a tough test of his team's resolve but he's been impressed with how his squad have been 're-energised' following the arrival of new signings Jamie McGonigle and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe who have enjoyed a full week of training.
Ex-Crusaders man McGonigle, however, is rated a doubt for the trip to Dublin after sustaining a knock in training but Higgins is hopeful he will be involved in the game and believes his new signings have had a positive impact on the whole group.
"You could see the group being re-energised in training over the last week with a couple of new faces and exciting talents and the players have responded to it," said Higgins. "I think it's great for the group and they see we're trying to do things right here.
"Having said that, Jamie McGonigle has picked up a slight niggle this week and that can be natural because he's come off the back of not playing at all for five or six weeks and then straight into our environment. We'll see how he is tomorrow and we'll assess it but it's nothing major at all. We just need to look after him and protect him. Junior also had a really good second debut for us and he will be available."
Following a comprehensive victory over Waterford at home last weekend, Higgins takes his troops back on the road where his record has been hugely impressive with five wins, a draw at Shamrock Rovers and a just the one defeat to Dundalk so far.
With joint leaders Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers both in European action this week St Pat's have the opportunity to join them on the summit with a win and Higgins is braced for a tough challenge.
However, having earned wins at both Bohemians and Sligo already this season, Higgins is confident his team can return to Foyleside with a positive result.
"I think Pat's in Inchicore are a tough nut to crack. I saw them there a couple of times this season and they're a really good side. They have a lot of creativity and running power and all those things so we need to be well prepared, which I think we are.
"We go there confident ourselves and I think there's real belief in the group that we can go to difficult venues and pick up good results.
"I think Pats will be right there at the end, I really do. We did well against them here at the Brandywell, leading with six minutes to go but they broke us down late on. I think it will be another tight game and hopefully one where we come out on top.
"We just need to treat every game in isolation and we've come a long way in the last while. It's important to keep that momentum going. If you perform well then results will follow and that's what we're focused on at the minute, trying to perform to the highest level possible and see where it goes.
"The form has been good away from home and it was obviously nice to get our home win as well but we don't prepare any less or differently whether we're home or away. Players are in good spirits and hopefully we can go to Inchicore and pick up three points - that's the goal!"
The Saints will be without experienced defenders Ian Bermingham and Lee Desmond for tonight's match after both were sent off during the 3-2 defeat to Bohemians last weekend bit Higgins expects the Dubliners to 'adapt' with plenty of quality replacements at their disposals.
"I don't see them changing anything to be honest," he predicted. "They're at home and their home form is good. They have good players and they can adapt to whoever they lose so we will be well prepared as I'm sure they will. I know their manager very well and he's diligent and does his homework so they will be well prepared for us as well. I'm looking forward to the game."
Richmond Park welcomes back 500 supporters, the biggest attendance of the season so far and Higgins believes the presence of fans will also give his players a lift.
"It'll be great. Even for our fans going to away grounds with supporters, it gives everybody a lift. It can give our players energy as well and hopefully we send them home disappointed," he laughed.
"We try our very best to win the game. One thing I can guarantee is the players will leave everything on the pitch to try and pick up the three points and then we'll see where we are after the game."
Derry may also have to plan without the services of midfielder Joe Thomson who netted the second goal against Waterford last weekend as he remains in Scotland following the birth of his second son last Sunday evening. Winger Marc Walsh (hamstring) has also been ruled out through injury.