Patrick McEleney scores the only goal during Derry City’s victory over Shelbourne at Tolka Park back in March. Pic by Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile
Shelbourne vs. Derry City
Ruaidhri Higgins has warned his players they will be in for a fight at Tolka Park tonight as Derry City aim head to Shelbourne hoping to get back to winning ways in the league.
The Candystripes are unbeaten in eight league games since May, but five of those games have been draws, with recent stalemates against Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda stunting City’s ambitions significantly at the top of the Premier Division.
Victory at Tolka tonight however could potentially see City move into second place above Dundalk, if Stephen O’Donnell’s side lose at Sligo Rovers. But Higgins insists a win is essential for his team, with every point at this stage of the season important.
"It's a tough one,” he agreed. “They're a good side who have got progressively better as the season has gone on and we know that we have to be ready for a fight because that's what it's going to be for large parts.
"We want to go down there and win. I know they were able to rest eight players (vs. Bonagee), but we've a good group here as well and if we have to freshen it up to a certain extent we will and we have got to trust the quality that we have as well.”
It is a quick turnaround for Derry, who defeated Cork City 2-0 to progress to the quarterfinals of the FAI Cup on Friday night. It was a straightforward win against the First Division leaders, who had to play most of the second half with ten men following the dismissal of striker Ruairi Keating.
"We're in the next round and that was the main thing,” Higgins continued. “Again, we got into loads of good areas all night long and we probably should have had a few more goals to show for our dominance in the game, and even at 11 vs. 11 we were the dominant team.
“It's a good win and we're in the hat, so we're delighted with that. We want to win it and we'll have a go at it, that's for sure. I think we're good enough to win the competition but let's see what the draw brings, but we know on our day we can beat anybody. I think this group of players is more than capable.”
The victory over Cork City also brought another clean sheet, making it 10 for the season overall, which is one more than the team managed throughout last season.
"We have given up very few chances over the last month or so, which has been pleasing,” Higgins reflected. “I'm happy how we have looked defensively and I'm also happy with how we're looking going forward, it's just being more cut-throat and really putting games to bed, is probably the bit that we're lacking slightly at the minute.
"Mickey (Duffy) has hit the post and Patrick (McEleney) had a header saved and probably because they defended deep there wasn't loads of clear-cut stuff but we were getting into really good areas, loads of shots from the edge of the box and we were a bit wasteful at times. But look I'm happy with how the team is evolving and it's going in the right direction and we're in the quarter-final of the cup, so we have to be happy with that.”
The priority for Higgins is now a strong finish to the season, and he is hoping his team can repeat the win they enjoyed at Tolka back in March when Patrick McEleney got the only goal in a 1-0 win.
“They are tight games and Shels are extremely well-organised and well coached, so we know that we'll need a big performance to pick up three points.
"There's good history between the clubs and I was involved in plenty of them and I think the likes of Shelbourne coming up this year; Cork City hopefully coming up next year I think we need all the big clubs up in the top division and hopefully we can see that next season.”
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