Ruaidhri Higgins unfazed as Shamrock Rovers close in on Derry City at the top

RUAIDHRI HIGGINS was left feeling 'frustrated' as his Derry City team dropped two points in the race for the title but the Brandywell boss is still enjoying the view from his lofty perch at the top of the league table despite the setback against Bohemians.
Derry City's Matty Smith in control against Bohemians at Brandywell. Photo by Kevin Moore.Derry City's Matty Smith in control against Bohemians at Brandywell. Photo by Kevin Moore.
Derry City's Matty Smith in control against Bohemians at Brandywell. Photo by Kevin Moore.

The Candy Stripes' lead on the summit was cut to a single point as they were held by Bohs at home while champions Shamrock Rovers, buoyed by Stephen Bradley's decision to remain in Tallaght, closed the gap with a comprehensive win against Finn Harps.

Derry held a six point advantage over Rovers four weeks ago but despite being annoyed at Friday night's 1-1 draw, Higgins opted to focus on the positives as his team once again showed character to fight back to earn a result.

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"If you offered me this position back in January I could only have dreamt of it so we have to enjoy it and keep trying to win games and see where it leaves us," he said. "We've had a really good start to the season and just want to continue it. When you're not at your best it's important you don't lose the game.

"From a positive point of view we've went 1-0 down and came back and haven't lost the game," he added. "The players have kept going but we just weren't as fluid tonight as we have been. You do get nights like that but we'll get ready and prepared for Monday (against St Pat's) and go again."

The City supremo had flagged up Bohemians counter attacking qualities in the pre-match build-up and so it was disappointing his team were undone by a lightening break at the start of the second half which was finished off by Promise Omochere.

Indeed, City were the architects of their own downfall as Liam Burt raced towards goal with options either side before picking out Omochere who finished past Brian Maher at the near post.

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"It was a frustrating night. I thought first half was scrappy. Second half was a bit better. We got into a lot of good areas but just lacked that wee bit of quality at the top end that we normally have.

"You have to give credit to the opposition as well. They're well set up. They're well coached and well organised. We spoke about their counter attacking threat and their goal comes from that.

"They're brilliant at it. They're without doubt the best counter attacking team in the league and we were well aware of that. They can hurt you at any given moment and they punished us. We were a bit too open and they exploited us.

"They're a good side and I fully expect them to be climbing the table and finish in a really high position.

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"We weren't as fluid or as cohesive or as on the frontfoot as we have been in recent weeks but that happens from time to time. We haven't lost the game and finished the game quite strongly but just lacked that wee bit of cutting edge in areas where we're normally devastating.

"We had a few half chances and huffed and puffed a bit but you get nights like this. Make no mistake about it, they're a really good side and will hurt teams, no doubt."

Bohemians manager Keith Long was left reeling at the award of a controversial penalty when Patrick McEleney went down under the challenge from Ciaran Kelly on 35 minutes. However, Higgins' team has been dealt his fair share of misfortune in recent weeks and had little sympathy for his counterpart, claiming justice prevailed in the end.

"From where I was Patrick was through and there's contact made. I've been frustrated so many times myself when I feel decisions haven't went for us so if they feel aggrieved then I don't really care. We definitely deserved at least a point out of the game," he insisted.

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"We were in the ascendency in the second half and they retreated. Bringing on a centre half for the last 10 mibnutes showed they were happy with a point. We weren't. The first half was scrappy and bitty and the second half we had the majority of possession without being as devastating in attack as we normally are."

Derry face another difficult test of their resolve on Monday night when St Pat's arrive on Foyleside and Higgins reckons they will be coming to 'right the wrongs' of last weekend's 4-0 hammering at home.

"They've had an absolutely brilliant win and responded the way I felt they would. They will be full of confidence. Last Friday is forgotten now and they've responded the way the would've liked. We know they will come up here with the bit between their teeth so we'll have to get ready. We have a couple of days to recover but we'll go and try and win the game on Monday."