Derry City boss Ruaidhrí Higgins hits out at referee over crucial penalty award

Cameron McJannet celebrates his goal against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night              PICTURE: Margaret McLaughlin
Cameron McJannet celebrates his goal against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night PICTURE: Margaret McLaughlin

DERRY City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins felt that referee Paul McLaughlin could have been stronger and also insisted that Graham Burke won a point for Shamrock Rovers, at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, on Friday night.

The Tallaght men had to come from behind after Cameron McJannet had given the home side the lead, but Higgins felt that Burke won the penalty, which he duly converted himself and referee McLaughlin should have been stronger when making the decision.

The Republic of Ireland international got in behind Shane McEleney to latch onto Rory Gaffney’s pass, before going down easily inside the box to win the spot-kick, which also saw the City centre-back shown a straight red card for the incident.

 When asked if the referee needed to be stronger for the penalty incident Higgins stated: "I think so. Graham Burke has used all his experience. he has slowed down and if there was any contact there was only minimal contact. I think the ref has to be strong there and understand what the player is doing.

"Listen, Graham has got what he wanted. He slowed down and if there was any contact he's gone down. He has bought it and put it away.

"I have zero complaints about him (Burke) being onside because I have watched it back and he is onside. Shane hasn't fouled him. Graham Burke has slowed him down. There was minimal, minimal contact. He has used all his experience, won his team a penalty and put it away.

 "I think you have to be strong there and know exactly what the player is doing. That is not me being bitter, I just think when I look at the incident in isolation I genuinely don't think it is a penalty.”

But for that late Burke spot-kick, the Derry gaffer felt his side would have been celebrating a victory and moving to just a point behind The Hoops with six games remaining.

 "I do. In relation to the game I think the first 45 minutes bar one or two moments we were the dominant team and played the game in their half, we went after them the way we wanted to go after them,” he added.

“We created opportunities, got loads of crosses into the box and put them under pressure with loads of set plays.

 "First 15 minutes of the second half they were the better team, they had a stranglehold of the game but we recovered from that and got our noses in front. I thought we were quite comfortable up until the moment we conceded the penalty and, as I said, I don't think it is a penalty.”

The Candy Stripes had a glorious chance to double their lead moments after breaking the deadlock but midfielder Adam O’Reilly fired wide after bursting into the Rovers penalty box.

 "To be fair to Adam, he has been absolutely exceptional; really, really exceptional in the game and he has been for a period of time,” Higgins explained. “He has been a great signing for the club.

“I don't know how many yards he makes up to get into that position but yeah there are moments in games but if you look at chances created over the course of the game we had the more chances and I felt we deserved three points.”