Ruaidhri Higgins hopes derby 'hurt' drives Derry City on

RUAIDHRI Higgins tasted his first defeat as Derry City manager in Monday night's North West derby and he's thankful for the quick turnaround in games as he looks to quickly banish the result 'out of our systems.'

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 11:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 12:00 am
Derry City midfielder Joe Thomson and Will Seymore (Finn Harps) battle for the ball during the derby. Photograph by Kevin Moore.

Going into his first game as City boss at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, Higgins was searching to extend a two match winning run under his stewardship and clinch three points which could've lifted Derry level with Finn Harps in fourth spot.

Having celebrated an 89th minute winner against Bohemians at Dalymount Park four days previously, Derry found themselves at the wrong side of a last gasp winning strike on this occasion as Harps clinched an historic win on Foyleside.

Not the result Higgins had dreamt about and he was disappointed the growing band of Derry fans who gathered out on the Brandywell Road went home empty handed.

"Yeah, it's very disappointing obviously. I would've loved a dream start and getting three points on my first game at home. I can't fault the players' effort and application over the last 10 or 11 days. They've given absolutely everything. I can't fault their commitment tonight either. Listen, we've taken six points from nine over the last three games which isn't a bad return.

"It was great to see the support," added the Derry boss. "Obviously I would've liked to send them home with a positive result but it's not to be. I'm obviously very thankful for the support and so are the players and staff. We just need to turn this hurt into our own advantage in the coming games."

The Candy Stripes don't have too long to wait as Longford Town arrive at Brandywell next Friday night and Higgins is confident his team can bounce back quickly.

"Longford had a good result against Dundalk which shows just what this league is about. They will come here and expect to get something but we have to make sure we do our homework, prepare properly and try and win the game.

"It's been a really busy 10 or 11 days and the players have given it absolutely everything. I can't ask more of them in terms of application and effort. I just felt in periods of the game we lost our composure in key periods of the game. We'll get better and we'll learn from this."

Despite the manner of the defeat, upon reflection Higgins will no doubt be encouraged by the chances created from open play. And on another night Derry could've won the match.

James Akintunde scored his first goal of the season as Derry took the lead in a game for the first time this year while Will Patching, Jack Malone and Eoin Toal all hit the woodwork in the second half. Harps keeper Mark Anthony McGinley also produced a top save to deny Patching in the first half of an absorbing derby encounter.

"It's really tough. I think we were in the ascendancy whenever the winning goal came. We obviously hit the post twice in the second half. Listen, we weren't at the levels I would've liked tonight but it's a quick turnaround Friday to Monday and we have a lot of young players but they will grow from this experience.

"I thought we went in a goal in front, probably not deserving to go in front. I thought Finn Harps probably shaded the first half. I felt at half-time we would've got a wee boost from being a goal up but it wasn't to be. It was a bad night for us.

"We gave away too many corners, too many freekicks in dangerous areas but again we have to learn from that and respond in the right manner on Friday night.

"The second half was end to end and we probably shaded it in terms of changes in the second half. We've hit the woodwork a few times and they did with an unbelievable effort at the end of the first half. We've created more chances tonight but we've given away poor goals on our behalf. It was a battle and you know Finn Harps are going to put it up to you. They're a good side and nothing took me by surprise to be honest. But I felt, on chances created, we deserved something out of the game."

Derry's last win at Brandywell was on October 23rd last year - a 2-0 victory over Shelbourne. The club has managed just three home wins in the past 12 months and that's something Higgins is determined to put right this Friday night.

"We fully expected and believed we would go into this game and win it. It wasn't to be but we have an opportunity on Friday night to bounce back.

"We know against Finn Harps and Ollie Horgan and Paul Hegarty that they're going to be really well organised. They have some really good players at the top end of the pitch and we were well prepared for it

"It just wasn't to be but we've got another opportunity on Friday to get another three points on the board and that's what we will go all out to do."

The defeat brings the first series of fixtures to a conclusion with Derry occupying eighth spot in the table, six points adrift of their Donegal rivals. However, having earned eight points from their last five matches Higgins believes his team will continue to climb the table.

"I would hope (Derry will have a better return over the next series of games)," he said. "I believe in this group of players. We have some really good players at the club. We need to get this out of our system. We'll give the players tomorrow off and come in and prepare on Wednesday and Thursday for the Longford game.

"We have to believe we can come here and win on Friday night and we know if we were at our maximum levels we can get three points."