Ruaidhri Higgins says Derry City must become ruthless if Candy Stripes are to realise title dream

Derry City keeper Brian Maher produces this sensational save to deny Dundalk in the second half. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphotoDerry City keeper Brian Maher produces this sensational save to deny Dundalk in the second half. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphoto
Derry City keeper Brian Maher produces this sensational save to deny Dundalk in the second half. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphoto
​RUAIDHRÍ Higgins has warned Derry City must find a way to ‘grab games by the scruff of the neck’ if they're to win the league title this season after the Brandywell outfit produced another 'patchy' performance against Dundalk at Oriel Park on Friday night.

​Brian Maher was the busiest of the two goalkeepers at the home of the league's bottom club as second placed Derry stretched their winless run to three matches!

It was yet another opportunity missed by Higgins' charges with leaders Shelbourne losing to Sligo Rovers on the same night.

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A lack of ruthlessness and guile in the final third against a resurgent Dundalk who have been re-energised by the arrival of their new manager Jon Daly, meant the Candy Stripes closed the gap at the top to five rather than three.

Michael Duffy couldn't find a way to unlock the Dundalk defence at Oriel Park. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphotoMichael Duffy couldn't find a way to unlock the Dundalk defence at Oriel Park. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphoto
Michael Duffy couldn't find a way to unlock the Dundalk defence at Oriel Park. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphoto

It means Derry have earned just three points from their last three matches against the league’s bottom three clubs, Sligo, Drogheda and Dundalk – the type of games Higgins insisted his team simply needed to win if they were to go all the way in the title race.

Higgins will be hoping he's not looking back on these games at the end of the season with regret should Derry's wait for a first league title since 1997 continue.

“We have to grab it by the scruff of the neck and start winning more tight games because if we're to do anything, if we're to achieve anything, that's what you need to do to achieve success," lamented the City boss.

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"These are season-defining types of games and we need to do more to try and squeeze it over the line.

Cameron Dummigan pictured in action against his former club Dundalk on Friday night at Oriel Park.Cameron Dummigan pictured in action against his former club Dundalk on Friday night at Oriel Park.
Cameron Dummigan pictured in action against his former club Dundalk on Friday night at Oriel Park.

"You don't have to be brilliant to win matches and we need to find a way. We have enough experience in the dressing room , enough match winners and we had enough set-plays in the game. We need to start scoring different types of goals."

The City boss had predicted his side would meet a resolute and much improved Dundalk outfit who boasted SIX clean sheets from their previous six at home.

And despite both teams having clear cut chances to break the deadlock neither could take advantage.

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It's the sixth time this season Derry have failed to score a goal but they had a big chance early on when Adam O'Reilly's strike was palmed away by Ross Munro. Dundalk’s record goalscorer, Pat Hoban – one of SEVEN former Lilywhites in the Derry team – also came close with a header into the side netting in the first half.

Derry City striker Pat Hoban tries to find a way past the Dundalk defence on his first return to Oriel Park. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphotoDerry City striker Pat Hoban tries to find a way past the Dundalk defence on his first return to Oriel Park. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphoto
Derry City striker Pat Hoban tries to find a way past the Dundalk defence on his first return to Oriel Park. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Moore/MCIphoto

Dundalk, however, had the better of the goalscoring opportunities with Maher producing two vital saves - his second an incredible stop - to deny Cameron Elliott and then James Gullan.

The City keeper more than redeemed himself for the mistake which led to Sligo’s second goal in the 2-2 draw at Brandywell the previous weekend!

“He's made very few mistakes in his two and a half years here, but whenever he has made the odd one he's recovered brilliantly and he's done great tonight. He made a big save in the first half as well I think and a big one in the second half so he can be happy with his night's work.”

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Derry were fortunate to get back up the road with a point intact but Higgins felt the draw was a fair reflection.

“Possibly a fair result,” he said. “I know we had the lion's share of possession. They countered us a few times and got a few big chances from counter-attacks.

“We've had a couple of decent chances in both halves. So, over the piece it's probably a fair result.

"Dundalk haven't conceded a goal at home since the end of March, but we did have a few opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. But as I said, Brian's made a couple of big saves and they've had a couple of chances as well, so a point apiece is probably fair.

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“We came here and we wanted three, but unfortunately we didn't get them. As I said to the players in there, we need to do a wee bit more to try and get these types of games over the line.

“Last week against Sligo we had ample opportunities. It was wave after wave of attacks and you should win that game, but I want to see more of that in the team.

“We were a wee bit flat, particularly for the first half of the second half. We finished the game stronger. Michael Duffy's had a chance and I think we've hit the post with one as well.

"We had loads of set plays and stuff like that. So, we finished the second half quite well, but the first half of that second half was too flat and too pedestrian.

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“You want to win every game. Obviously there's disappointment that we couldn't get it over the line. We need to be winning these types of games. We're a point closer to the leaders, but we should be demanding that we're three points closer, especially in moments when you're on top in games.”

Derry finished the game with a flurry of corner kicks but Dundalk defended with ease. Success from setplays this term has been largely poor and Higgins knows they must find different ways to score goals.

"We can't always score pretty goals and goals from open play. We need to find a way of scoring different types of goals.

"Not just set plays but we just need more variety in how we can hurt the opposition. It's a frustrating night I feel.

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"The positive I suppose you can take out of it is that it's a clean sheet. We came here wanting to win and expecting to win and demanding to win and we couldn't do it.

“We have to grab it by the scruff of the neck and start winning more tight games because that's what you need to do to achieve success.”