Derry City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins commended the spirit within his squad after they collected a second win in the capital in the space of four days, dispatching UCD 2-0 to copper-fasten their position as early season pace-setters in the SSE Airticity League Premier Division.

Having snatched victory at Dalymount Park on Friday with yet another late goal, Higgins' side didn't cut it quite so fine against the league's bottom club, the in-form Will Patching and Ronan Boyce grabbing second half goals to push their lead at the top out to six points.

While the opening goal took more than an hour to arrive, Higgins insisted his team had shown great intent from the off.

"Our performance was quite good. We were happy with where we were at half-time," Higgins told RTÉ Sport after the game.

"We should have been in front. We hit the woodwork a few times, (Jamie) McGonigle missed a one-on-one, Matty Smith's missed a good chance. We created a lot of chances.

"We kept doing the right things, the players never get flustered. And then a piece of magic from Will - doing what Will Patching does - gets us in front. We kicked on from there and got a good second goal and were quite comfortable seeing it out."

While Derry's bullish activity in the transfer market in late 2021 and early 2022 provoked much chatter - billionaire owner Philip O'Doherty facilitating a spending spree which saw the likes of Patching, Smith, Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy arriving - Higgins was, at the outset, anxious to play down expectations of a title challenge in 2022.

At the LOI launch, the Derry boss was adamant that Stephen Bradley's three-in-a-row chasing Shamrock Rovers side remained heavy favourites. Continuing to tamp down expectations may prove more challenging after a start which has seen them drop just four points in their first eight games.

"It's been a great return, there's a great spirit within the group," acknowledges Higgins. "And it's been two tough fixtures away from home in the last four days and to pick up six points is great. We've to get prepared now for a big game on Saturday.

"In the second half the other night against Bohemians, we kept the ball extremely well and wore them down and we kept the ball really well tonight as well. Eventually, chances do appear.

"To be fair, we created chances tonight from five or six minutes in. We looked good in an attacking sense. I always felt we were in control but Colm Whelan and Liam Kerrigan on the counter can be real threats and we just had to be mindful of that.

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"I though Eoin Toal, Shane McEleney and Cameron Dummigan were absolutely brilliant. So professional and constantly minded the house. The Patchings and all these players get the headlines but I think that triangle were really influential in how we controlled the game in a possession sense but also in stopping counter attacks as well."

For the hosts, the result leaves them three points adrift at the bottom, with three points accumulated in eight games. UCD manager Andy Myler admitted his young side were having to learn quickly against higher calibre opposition in 2022.

"Derry are a very good side, we sat in, we frustrated them for long parts of the game. And then gave away a really silly free kick in a dangerous area," Myler told RTÉ Sport afterwards.

"And then you're chasing and when you're chasing you've to open up. But even with that, the second goal was worse than the first.

"Listen, we've talked about learning quickly and we're nearly one series through. Individual mistakes and errors are killing us in games where we're playing relatively well but getting hurt by those one or two moments because we're playing better opposition than last year.

"We need to rectify that. Young players and so on, you can get caught up in the cliches of that. But we need to be better."

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