‘There will be more nights like this’ - promises Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins
RUAIDHRI Higgins soaked up the carnival atmosphere at the end of Derry City’s final home match of the season on Friday night and promised to give the supporters ‘more nights like this’ as he gets excited about what the future holds in store for the Brandywell club.
The former City midfielder played his part in the club’s memorable 2006 campaign where the Candy Stripes came so close to winning the league title and completing a domestic ‘treble’ under Stephen Kenny during a time when visiting teams feared coming to the Lone Moor Road venue.
So the Limavady man knows from experience how big a factor a full house at the stadium can be when the team is challenging for honours and he insists the fans should ‘expect’ to win their home matches.
Derry produced an impressive performance to earn a 2-0 victory over a previously in-form Sligo Rovers which sent the estimated 3,750 attendance home with smiles on their faces.”We’ll give them more nights like this,” promised Higgins.
“I want them (the fans) to be excited and I want them to expect when they come to the Brandywell that we will win. We want teams travelling to Derry fearful. I think all the great Derry teams of the past have made this place a really difficult place to come and play.”
Friday’s timely win over third placed Sligo ensures Derry have something to play for going into the final day of the season with fourth place still up for grabs and with it the potential of qualifying for European competition in 2022 should St Pat’s win the FAI Cup Final at the end of the month.
Fourth place would be an incredible turnaround for the Foylesiders considering Higgins took over a team last April which was flirting with relegation, propping up the league table after six winless matches.
“If I was offered this position on April 23rd then I wouldn’t have believed it first and foremost so to even have half a shout of getting into that fourth position is incredible. The players here and the staff all deserve huge credit because everyone works really hard. What the players have given, I think they deserve it.”
They certainly deserved their win against the Bit O’Red on Friday night which extended their unbeaten home run to seven matches - run which included victories over Drogheda (3-0), Dundalk (1-0), Longford (3-0), St Pat’s (1-0) and now Sligo (2-0). The only two defeats at home under Higgins this season were against Finn Harps and Shamrock Rovers but while he would’ve hoped to turn a few of the eight draws into wins, the City boss will have been generally pleased with his team’s performances on their home patch.
Another clean sheet, thanks to two instinctive saves from Nathan Gartside, and the win made it 10 points from a possible 12 taken from Liam Buckley’s side this term.
That’s an encouraging statistic given how Sligo were, albeit fleetingly, challenging for the title and the performance will give Higgins’ charges a huge boost going into Friday’s crunch clash with Dundalk.
“I think it was deserved. I think the first 20 or 25 minutes were excellent. They grew into the first half and finished the first half stronger than us and I was glad to see half-time to be honest.
They had a spell in each half where they were on top but I think we definitely deserved the three points.
“It was really important to get back to winning ways and I thought we played really well for large periods and deserved our win. I’m delighted to send our supporters home happy and we hope to see them here in the first home game next season.
“I said that to the players in there, taking 10 points off them, no one else has done it.
“We had four off the line. It could have been more emphatic. Sligo won three on the spin and still had second as a possibility so it’s a really good win and taking 10 points from 12 against Sligo Rovers is a great achievement.
“I was delighted we had a week lead in to this game and I think it was evident our players were refreshed and re-energised tonight so we’ll get another good, sharp week’s training under our belt in preparation to go down to a team that is playing really well and try and get a big three points and see where it leaves us.”