Higgins fumes at referee following Derry City's shock defeat to Sligo Rovers

Ruaidhrí Higgins feels Derry will improve
Ruaidhrí Higgins feels Derry will improve Ruaidhrí Higgins feels Derry will improve

Derry City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins was fuming with referee Rob Harvey after Friday night’s shock 1-0 loss at Sligo Rovers.

The defeat could have been a lot worse in their quest to secure their first league title in over 20 years as leaders Shamrock Rovers only managed a scoreless draw at bottom side UCD.

However, Higgins wasn’t too bothered by the Hoops’ result, as he was too annoyed by Harvey’s performance.

The Dubliner failed to award City a penalty in the second half when Cian Kavanagh seemed to be bundled to the ground inside the six-yard box by former Cliftonville goalkeeper Richard Brush, while Stefan Radosavljevic may have handled the ball over the line for the only goal in the game.

“I can’t comment on the goal, as I didn’t see it, but the players thought it was a hand ball,” insisted Higgins.

“Richard Brush has openly admitted at full-time that he got away with one. (Greg) Bolger and a few other Sligo players are baffled that we never got awarded a penalty, so that tells you everything you need to know on that one. 

“The same referee has cost us and the game is 0-0 at that point. Those are the types of decisions that you need to go for you.

"I’m not excusing parts of the performance for a large part of the second half, I’m not excusing that, but it would be remiss if I didn’t comment on what I felt was an absolute stonewall penalty and I don’t think you’re going to get a more clear-cut penalty.

“When their players are coming up to you at full-time and basically telling you what you think, then there’s no denying it has cost us.”

The Limavady man didn’t want to comment on Harvey’s overall performance.

“I’d rather leave that for others to decide and not comment on it because you’re not allowed to and you’re not allowed to have honest conversations with them either, because you get told to go elsewhere and in a more derogatory way than that,” he explained.

“So I would rather not comment but what I would comment on it is that we’ve been done, absolutely done by the penalty that he should have given.

“Did we deserve to go 1-0 up, probably not to be honest with you, but it’s still a key moment in the game.”

The 38-year-old was also quick to point out that while he was annoyed by Harvey’s display, he was also disappointed that his players didn’t perform at the Showgrounds.

“We’ve come off it tonight, nowhere near at the levels we’ve been at recently, which is very, very disappointing,” he added.

“First half we had good control without creating much. Danny (Mullen) has had a chance and the keeper has made a save from him, but bar that, we haven’t created much.

“I think down here, particularly the second half down here, when you play against Sligo second balls and competing and doing all the bitty stuff well is really important because the crowd gets up and their players feed off the energy of the crowd.

“We lost our composure for a period of time, which shouldn’t be the case as we’ve a lot of experienced players on the pitch and in that period, when we lost our composure we got punished and it’s as simple as that.

“Games are decided on small details and we got ragged and we got punished.”

The Candystripes now sit five points behind Stephen Bradley’s men with five games remaining and Higgins wants his players to just focus on this Friday night’s home clash against the Students.

“Our motto is win the next game and I think we’re still alive, there hasn’t been major damage done, but we have to win our next game,” he insisted.

“We need to get back to not looking too far ahead, get back to doing what we’ve done really well in recent weeks and months and when the game gets scrappy and bitty, like what happened in the second half at times tonight, then we need to show more composure.

"I really felt the way we’ve been playing that we would come down here and win if we brought the same intensity level that we’ve done, but it wasn’t to be.

“I’m not excusing the players because they’ve been really good for the last few months, but we need to up our levels and produce better than what we did, particularly in the second half.”