Ruaidhri Higgins encouraged as Derry City's 'Triple J' threat strike again!
DERRY CITY boss Ruaidhri Higgins is delighted his strike force appear to have hit form at just the right time as the Brandywell club accelerate in the race to secure European football for next season.
The City boss admitted his intention was to ‘excite our supporters’ as he fielded an attack-minded team against bottom of the table Longford Town on Friday night.
And while the Candy Stripes didn’t exactly replicate the brave, gung-ho approach they produced in the previous Monday night’s six goal thriller against Bohemians in Dalymount, the fact all three of Derry’s strikers got on the scoresheet for the second consecutive game was particularly pleasing for the Limavady man.
The three goals against the Midlanders made it 20 in the last 10 league matches with eight of those strikes coming in the last three! Higgins’ faith in an offensive 3-4-3 formation has paid dividends and the three pronged attack of Jamie McGonigle, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe and James Akintunde offers an abundance of creativity in the final third.
McGonigle’s opening goal against Longford wasn’t as eye-catching as his bullet strike against Bohs but he took his opportunity brilliantly when he capitalised on a hesitant visiting defence before clinically finding the far corner of the net for his fourth goal for the club since joining in the summer.
Akintunde has plenty more to his game than goals but after his deft stoppage time goal against the Gypsies in Dublin, his first half strike against Longford had a large slice of good fortune as it deflected off a defender and wrong-footed keeper, Lee Steacy. Junior then got in on the act with eight minutes remaining as he dinked his close range effort into the net to seal a comfortable win.
It was a precious win which stretched Derry’s unbeaten run to seven and moved the Foylesiders to within three points of third placed Sligo Rovers - a remarkable achievement given the club had just two points from a possible 18 and were bottom of the table when Higgins took charge. The rejuvenated Candy Stripes have now garnered 17 points from a possible 21 during their recent unbeaten league run and appear to be peaking at the perfect time with just eight games remaining.
With both rivals for European qualification, Sligo and Bohemians, yet to come to Brandywell, Derry find themselves in an excellent position.
Friday was far from their best performance of the season but Higgins was delighted with the result coupled with news from elsewhere.
“We’ve gained a bit of ground but there are eight games to go and we just need to keep plugging away,” said the Derry boss. “We’ve an extremely difficult fixture next Friday in Tallaght but we will go there with the intention of getting a positive result and try to win the game.
“We’ve taken 17 points now from a possible 21 so we can’t complain about that but we can’t stand still and need to kick on. It’s a good night in relation to the result. The three same goalscorers have scored again so the signs are good from an attacking sense. We looked like there were goals in us but I would’ve liked us to have more control of the game.
“I’m getting greedy because I had to remind myself on the way in after the game about the amount of mental and physical fatigue from Monday night. I shouldn’t be flat because we’ve had a really good win but because the players are giving so much, I expect so much.
“Listen, they’ve been brilliant. We got the job done, scored three goals and kept a clean sheet so I won’t complain too much.”
Higgins wants his team to be attack minded and entertaining and he was pleased to send the biggest Brandywell attendance of the season home happy.
“It’s important. I don’t want us to be a team that protects our goal and tries to sit in and hit teams on the break. I don’t want to be that way. I think Derry fans expect team to go and attack and that’s what we intend to do over the next period of time. Someone said to me, ‘You don’t have that many attacking options on the bench because they were all playing’.
“We got as many attackers on the pitch as possible and tried to be positive from minute one. Listen, I don’t think our performance was of the highest level but it was professional and we got it over the line and won quite comfortably in the end.
“We went attacking. We wanted to excite our supporters. I think we were better in the first half than the second but I have to remind myself of how much energy the players used up on Monday night. I’m not making excuses for the players but the game on Monday night was 100 mile per hour for 90 minutes and it’s bound to take that amount of energy from you.”
Higgins wasn’t surprised his three strikers all found the back of the net on the night and hopes they can continue the hot streak in Tallaght on Friday night.
“Jamie is clinical and I fancied him to score whenever he went in there. That’s what he does, he runs off the back of people and scores goals, left foot, right foot. It’s a great finish to give us a bit of control and it meant they had to come out then and we looked a threat on the break like we did on Monday night as well.
“James Akintunde probably isn’t renowned for his goals,” he added. “His all round game is exceptional, his work rate is exceptional and awareness of people around him is brilliant but I’m delighted he’s adding goals to his game. He’s a really good player. If he can chip in with more goals, more often then I think he’s a real, real top player in this league. He’s a top player in the league anyway but I think he can really elevate himself. Jamie and Junior are goalscorers so that’s no real surprise to me.”