Shamrock Rovers wobble and Derry City resume hunt as title race regains its intrigue
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As if from nowhere a title race has appeared and there's hints that Rovers are not quite so impermeable as they once appeared. Perhaps the 1-0 defeat to Bohemians at Dalymount is just a glitch in their relentless march towards a third title on the spin but Derry's 10 match unbeaten run suggests there may yet be some life in this league campaign.
The race for the championship has certainly regained its intrigue with Derry now just four points behind the Hoops who have a game in hand but with a condensed fixture schedule to balance given their European exploits which resumes next Thursday night at home to Djurgården in the Europa Conference League group stages, there could well be another wobble on its way.
One win in their last four league matches have allowed Derry back in the race and with just nine matches remaining for Rovers who face two games in seven days for the next eight weeks, Stephen Bradley's men will no doubt be looking sheepishly over their shoulders.
It once seemed implausible Rovers would drop enough points to let Derry or Dundalk back in but the Brandywell men must be 'relentless' and keep the pressure on the leaders to ensure the meeting in Tallaght on October 30th is a meaningful one.
Higgins claims he's not getting carried away by the recent turn of events but Derry have their tails up at the perfect time.
The comfortable win over UCD was the first time they've won three on the bounce since April but Higgins knows they must win the rest of their fixtures if they're to topple Rovers.
"It's Shamrock Rovers to lose," said Higgins afterwards. "They're four points clear with a game in hand. They've been there and done it so it's theirs to lose. We'll just try and win every game we play and see where it takes us. We're not getting carried away. It's been a good week, we're happy with the direction we're going in and the players are full of confidence. We just want to win our next game and see where it takes us."
Ryan Graydon continued his knack for scoring important goals, following up his late, late winner at Tolka Park on Monday night with a tap-in after five minutes against UCD.
Derry were sluggish, however, for the remainder of the first half and a half-time rollicking inspired a much improved second half performance with goals from the hugely impressive Sadou Diallo and Michael Duffy's first for the club since 2014, securing victory.
Prior to kick-off Derry City coaching staff were watering the troublesome 4G pitch with a pressure washer but it was the torrential rain which poured down incessantly from the start of the second half which appeared to give Derry a real advantage on the slick surface as they put UCD under sustained pressure.
"We needed to be more ruthless in our approach once we went 1-0 up but in the second half we were a lot, lot better. I'm more happy with the second half performance," added Higgins. "I thought after we went 1-0 up we got a bit sloppy with our passing which is unlike us but I also have to be mindful that it was our third game in seven days and that can happen.
"Second half was much better, much more like us. We created chances and that's our third clean sheet in a week so it's been a good week for us.
"Half-time was a bit heated," he revealed. "We spilled our guts out, players included and we all demanded more from ourselves. It was the reaction we wanted in the second half."