Ruaidhri Higgins praises Derry City's fight and 'togetherness' as winning run continues

RUAIDHRI Higgins believes Derry City's 'togetherness' and fighting spirit has kept them hot on the heels of league leaders Shamrock Rovers.
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"We're all fighting for each other," he said after Derry clinched a vital three points against Sligo Rovers which moved them back to within a single point of leaders Shamrock Rovers with six games to go.

It was a fifth clean sheet on the bounce for the Candy Stripes who are hitting form at the perfect time but Higgins knows his team have little room for error, describing Rovers as the best equipped squad in the country to deal with such a heavy European and domestic schedule.

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"It's tough (to balance the condensed fixtures) but if there's any group that has the squad to deal with it, it's them," he said. "If there's a club in this country that has the depth to be able to handle these scenarios, it's Shamrock Rovers."

Derry City's Will Patching celebrates with his teammates after his winning goal against Sligo Rovers on Tuesday night.Derry City's Will Patching celebrates with his teammates after his winning goal against Sligo Rovers on Tuesday night.
Derry City's Will Patching celebrates with his teammates after his winning goal against Sligo Rovers on Tuesday night.

Games might be running out for Higgins' team as Rovers have two games in hand and could be seven points ahead by the time Derry travel to play St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park in their next league outing, should the Dubliners defeat Shelbourne away and UCD at home.

However, the City manager says his team must give themselves every chance by winning their remaining fixtures and the cohesion and unity in his team has given him plenty to be optimistic about.

"What Shamrock Rovers do . . . what will be will be," he added. "It's completely in their hands. They have one hand on it and unless something drastic happens that won't change. We just need to keep chipping away. We've won four league games on the spin and were delighted. At this stage of the season it's about winning matches.

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"We've put a good run together and brought it back to a point but they've two games in hand. They have a lot of fixtures. It's not completely impossible that they slip up in games but if we don't take care of our business then everything else is irrelevant.

"That's what we will be doing. We'll focus on ourselves and keep trying to pick up three points in every game we play."

It was Will Patching who stole the headlines with a tremendous free-kick after 15 minutes to win the match on Tuesday night but Derry could've won a lot more comfortably had they taken their chances.

Higgins was delighted with the dominant performance against an in-form Sligo team and believes the greater cohesion in his team and the leaders through the spine of it has helped develop a winning culture.

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Mark Connolly has certainly provided that steadying influence at the back while Cameron Dummigan and skipper Patrick McEleney in particular are ensuring Derry have become a lot more dogged, professional and 'solid' at such a critical time of the season.

"We have a bit of momentum with us at the minute. You enjoy winning football matches and keeping clean sheets. Since Mark Connolly has come in he's given us real leadership in that part of the pitch and we look a real unit and together. With Patrick McEleney's experience ahead of that and Dummigan and people like that, we look a lot more solid."

While it was a nervy finale to the match given it was still in the balance at 1-0, Sligo rarely threatened Brian Maher's goal and Higgins was pleased with his team's professional display to grind out the win.

"Brian didn't have a save to make and we were very good defensively. We should've been more comfortable. First half performance I was delighted with the intensity we played at and I was delighted with how professional we were in the second half.

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"The players deserve huge credit for what they're putting in every week. It's a real squad game and the group is together and we're all fighting for each other. We should've won more comfortably.

"We had the better chances but at this stage of the season, two 1-0 wins at home is something we're only getting used to doing now which is great. It shows a different side to us, a togetherness and there's good leadership in the team now. It's a big, big win for us."