04 Jul 2022

Higgins asks fans to create special Brandywell European night

Latvian aces Riga FC drawn out of the hat to face Derry City in European Conference League tie

‘Not many will come to Tolka Park and win’ - Ruaidhri Higgins

Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins: "This tie gives our players a real platform to show how good they are."

Derry City boss, Ruaidhri Higgins, has called upon Candystripes fans to create a special Brandywell European night.

City were paired up against Riga FC from Latvia in the European Conference League First Round draw with the first-leg taking place at home on Thursday, July 7 with the return taking place in the Baltic state the following week on July 14.

Riga FC currently lie fourth in the Latvian Virslīga and are in red hot form having won their last five games, scoring 16 goals in the process.

The Latvian aces were narrowly edged out by Celtic in the Europa League two seasons ago in a 1-0 defeat two seasons ago while last year's campaign in the Champion's League saw them fall in a close tie to former runners-up Malmo of Sweden.

While Riga will be a tough task for Derry City, Higgins is confident the fans will be their 12th man and roar them to a first-leg lead.

He said: “When you are involved in European competitions you're going to come up against really good teams and we're doing that in the first round. But the Brandywell is an extremely special place on a European night.

“We hope that will be the same as it has been in the past and we can create an extraordinary atmosphere for the tie because we'll need the supporters every minute of the game.

“We know we have got players that are very capable of playing on that stage and this tie gives our players a real platform to show how good they are.”

Higgins will be leaving nothing to chance and will be heading out to the Baltic to spy on Riga in their match against Valmiera on June 26.

He added: “The plan is to get out to watch them in a few weeks time. They play on the Sunday after we play UCD on Friday night, so my plan is to fly over on the Saturday, watch the game on the Sunday and try to get back straight after the game. That's the plan so hopefully we can get everything sorted.”

Higgins and Derry City are no strangers to the Latvian capital. The Candystripes boss as a player back in 2009 set up Tam McManus' equaliser in the aggregate win over the now-defunct Skonto Riga.

Of Riga FC themselves, Higgins has tasted victory against them when assistant manager of Dundalk when the Lilywhites defeated them in a 5-4 penalty shootout win in the First Qualifying Round of the Champion's League in July, 2019.

He continued: “With Derry we drew over there and won at home against Skonto Riga but then against Riga FC with Dundalk in 2019, I was assistant manager and we had two 0-0s and won on penalties, though both games were very tight.

“They have improved dramatically over the last number of years. I think it took Celtic until the 90th minute recently to beat them and they lost very narrowly to Malmo last year in the qualifiers for the Champions League.

“They have a really good pedigree and it's a game we're really excited about. It would be extremely naïve if we went gung-ho because you have to look at the game as 180 minutes.

“The tie can ebb and flow within that and removing the 'away goals' rule has changed the dynamic massively. We're at home first and we'll want our crowd to be right behind us but, as I have said before and I won't change, we'll be trying to win the game.

“We'll need everybody on top of their game to do so but now we just need to get to work over the next couple of weeks and get some homework done on them and make sure that the players are prepared immaculately for the game,

“But prior to that we'll be fully focused on our games here in the League of Ireland, starting with Drogheda on Friday night.”

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