'We have players who can hurt them' - insists Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins
Ruaidhri Higgins is plotting a game-plan he hopes will help Derry City become the first team since Dundalk in September 2019 to defeat champions Shamrock Rovers in the SSE Airtricity league.
The Candy Stripes travel to Tallaght Stadium tomorrow aiming to end the Hoops’ 32 game unbeaten league run and while Higgins knows it’s a tough ask for his side, he’s going to Dublin aiming to cause an upset.
The Hoops’ new league record eclipses the previous record set by Rovers themselves back in 1927. It was extended to 32 last Saturday when they came from behind to see off second placed St Patrick’s Athletic thanks to Danny Mandroiu’s late strike. Indeed, the last time the Dubliners suffered a league loss was at Oriel Park when the Lilywhites secured their 2019 league title with Higgins in the Dundalk dug-out as Vinny Perth’s assistant manager.
“We are going there trying to win the game, or else what’s the point,” insisted the Derry boss.
“We have players who can hurt them. Obviously they have really good players as well and we need to be switched on to that and we need to compete for everything.
“We have good fitness levels within our squad. We are going late in games and we are getting late goals so if the game is in the balance with 10 or 15 minutes to go, then we know that we have the potential to score late goals. I’m not saying the plan is to sit in for the first 75 minutes, it’s absolutely not, but we are aware that we have a very good mentality within this team and we keep going.”
Higgins says he can’t help but laugh when he hears pundits claim Stephen Bradley’s side haven’t hit top gear yet this season. The Hoops, who have won their last seven games in a row, currently sit five points clear of nearest rivals St Pat’s at the top of the Premier Division table and only this week announced that former Dundalk midfielder Richie Towell was joining the club from Salford City. With that in mind, the Limavady man knows it’s going to be a tough night for his side.
“If you aren’t playing well and you are winning every game, then they are doing OK,” smiled Higgins, “Listen they have really good depth in their squad, they can make any amount of changes and it won’t hurt them. They are a really good side and we have to respect that but we also have good players and we have to go there and try to stamp our authority on the game.”
One man who has really started to find his feet in recent weeks has been striker James Akintunde who has scored in Derry’s last two games and Higgins hopes the Londoner can maintain his recent good form.
“James has been outstanding and he’s a pleasure to have around the place, he’s a really good person,” admitted the Derry boss.
“Parky (David Parkhouse) also knows how to score goals in this league, he just needs a break. If he keeps working hard every day his luck will turn, I’ve no doubt of that.
“We have players right throughout the team who can be a threat. You see Eoin Toal and Cameron McJannet getting on the end of crosses and set-plays. I also feel that we have players who can break from midfield and find the net, so we have people who can score goals, there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s about having a good structure out of possession and then having a freedom in our play when we have the ball.”
Midfielder Will Patching, on-loan from Dundalk, has been the Brandywell men’s main man when it comes to creating chances this season. His set-piece delivery has been second to none but it has been his work-rate off the ball which has really pleased Higgins.
Indeed, the Derry boss confirmed talks to extend the former Manchester City starlet’s stay at the Brandywell will happen in the coming weeks.
“Will is an outstanding footballer,” he enthused. “He’s a real natural sort of street footballer, a great talent, but the thing that has impressed me most of all is his work ethic out of possession.
“People would have said previously to me that he didn’t work hard enough off the ball but from working with him here, the fitter he has got, the more hungrier he has become and the more he has enjoyed playing his football. He’s doing a really good job for the team out of possession as well and should be really proud of his performances but I think he can still continue to get better.
“Given the way he’s playing it would be mad not to try and extend his deal but obviously he’s Dundalk’s player and it will be their call. I know t they have a lot of players in that position as well but we’ll see where that goes. As of yet, there is no news on that at all.”
The Brandywell side will welcome back winger Marc Walsh from his recent hamstring problem but midfielder Jack Malone is an injury doubt after feeling a tight hamstring at training this week.
“Jack Malone is 50/50 as he picked up a wee hamstring niggle earlier in the week but apart from that we are good to go. Marc Walsh is now available as well and is back training,” he confirmed.