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Sunday 9 December 2018

Subs setting the standard

Higgins frustrated with bench role but pays tribute to Lilywhites' squad

DUNDALK midfielder Ruaidhri Higgins believes that the bit-part actors are playing a major role for the Oriel Park club in their hunt for glory this season.

Just like the Liverpool side of the early 1980s, the current Dundalk team is a very tight unit with a settled squad - the Lilywhites have used fewer players (18) in the league than any other side in the league - and subs (like Reds bench-man David Fairclough) who play an important role off the bench.

Striker David McMillan is one of the top scorers in the country but he can't get into the Dundalk starting XI, just three league starts for the Dubliner.

Veteran midfielder Higgins is in the same boat, boasting experience and offering options to the tea, but having to make do with runs off the bench, just five Premier Division starts for the Derry native.

"It's frustrating for me to be on the bench every week. For the last three or four seasons I have been in the team almost every week but here I have had to be accustomed to life on the bench," says Higgins ahead of tonight's massive league tie away to St Patrick's Athletic.

"I can't complain too much as the lads ahead of me have done so well, so all I can do is try to make a contribution when I can and play a part. There is a lot of football to be played this season, we have three trophies to compete for and the manager will need his bench and his squad so I want to play a part.

"You have to be patient. Part of being a successful team - and I know that we haven't won anything yet this season - is having a squad and the manager using it," he added, aware that fellow super-sub McMillan did his bit last week, coming the bench at half time to turn a 2-1 deficit at home to Bohemians into a 3-2 win. "We have a lot of players here who are doing really well but can't get into the starting XI every week. David McMillan has scored 16 goals for us and he rarely starts a game, that just shows the quality we have. For the manager to be able to turn to his bench and bring on a player who's scored 16 goals, mainly as a sub, is sensational," says Higgins.

"David is a credit to himself as he works hard, he never lets his head or his standards drop even when he's not in the team.

"He has a great attitude but you need to have that to stay at this club and do well. Pat Hoban has been starting ahead of David and Pat's been brilliant so it's a hard call for the manager to make."

Higgins was denied a league title at home-town club Derry a decade ago but he feels the current crop have the desire to go all the way.

"It's the hungriest group of players I have ever been involved with. It's a credit to all of them and it's nice to be part of, I'd like to be playing more but it's still good to be part of it, I would love to finish the season with a trophy," he says.

Yet he is wary of tonight's opponents.

"Pats are a good side and winning in Derry last week was a big win for them. They have a good squad and on their day they can beat anyone so tonight is a tough game for us but we are playing with confidence," added Higgins, as Pats try to keep alive their hopes of a top-two finish this season.

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