Ruaidhri Higgins wants Derry City to become ruthless if they're to reach Shamrock Rovers standards
DERRY CITY boss Ruaidhri Higgins insists his team must become ruthless when they 'smell blood' if they are to reach the levels of pace-setters Shamrock Rovers.
The Candy Stripes relinquished a commanding 2-0 lead after a hugely impressive opening 30 minutes and defensive errors were punished by the quality of the reigning champions.
City, hoping to make it 'lucky 13' after 12 games without a win against the Dubliners, made an emphatic start to the game and compounded Rovers' apparent European hangover when Ronan Boyce fired past Alan Mannus 20 minutes into a breath-taking encounter.
The defender's fifth goal of the season was followed up by Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe's penalty - his first goal since his return to Foyleside - on the half hour mark and Rovers were left with a mountain to climb.
It was Rovers' who tasted blood, however, once man of the match, Graham Burke pulled one back from distance four minutes before the break.
That strike galvanised the visitors. Higgins was preparing to introduce both Darren Cole and Jamie McGonigle to swing the momentum but Rovers levelled before he could make his double substitution.
It was a lovely sweeping move by the Hoops on 56 minutes as Liam Scales found Ronan Finn at the back post who was left with a simple tap-in from six yards.
Further goals by subs, Rory Gaffney - a terrific strike after a sublime lobbed pass by Burke - and Richie Towell ended the game as a contest but it was a missed opportunity for Higgins who believes Burke's goal before the break was a 'significant moment' in the match.
"When we smell blood and get in front in these types of games we have to win them," insisted Higgins who pointed to the quality and experience on the Rovers' bench.
"First half is what I want Derry City to be," he added. "On the front foot, taking on the top sides in the Brandywell and being aggressive in our approach.
"I felt that the first half was a very good performance. There was so much to be positive about and then on the flip side, our second half performance, they've started it really well and did to us what we probably did to them for periods.
"The goals from our point of view were unacceptable and we showed a lack of belief. Eventually we want to be a Shamrock Rovers or a Dundalk of old but all I can say is we have to take the positives from the first half and rectify poor goals and make sure that doesn't happen again."
After Burke found the net at the end of the first half it gave Rovers the impetus and their two positive changes at the interval with the introduction of goalscorers Gaffney and Towell ultimately changed the game.
"It's a real significant moment (Burke's goal). If you get in 2-0 at half-time it gives you a real platform to build in the second half. "But when you're in front at half-time against anybody, you've got to smell blood and capitalise on it. They put us on the backfoot and we never recovered from it.
"Our confidence took a knock. We showed a bit of inexperience in the game where they showed loads of experience. They are the champions for a reason. They've got real individual quality throughout their squad. When you look at the substitutions they were able to make at half-time, they brought on power and athleticism and then they have quality around that as well. Gaffney scores one and Towell gets one so it shows you how much quality they can spring from the bench."
Higgins remained positive, bringing on striker Patrick Ferry in an attempt to get back in the game but the home lot created little of note as Rovers saw out the contest comfortably.
With attack-minded players David Parkhouse and Joe Thomson unused subs on the night, Higgins was asked why neither players featured as Derry chased the game.
The City boss revealed there was an 'internal issue' involving Scottish midfielder Thomson which was dealt with in-house.
It's understood Thomson was permitted to return to Glasgow for the birth of his son and following Covid tests, returned to the group later than scheduled.