UCD’s third home game of the season sees the winless Students welcome Finn Harps to the Bowl on Friday evening (kick-off 7pm).
Collie O’Neill’s side picked up their first point of the season two weeks when they deservedly held St Patrick’s Athletic to a 1-1 draw at home.
They followed that up with a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Sligo Rovers, but the visit of Harps, the only other side without a win so far, represents their best chance to date of picking up three points.
The goalscorer against Pats, Conor Davis, is unavailable due to a knee injury, but the creator of the goal, defender Liam Scales, has been rewarded with a call up to the Ireland under-21s.
Neil Farrugia was also rewarded with a call-up – leading to the postponement of next week’s game with Cork City – while Richie O’Farrell is in the under-19 elite qualifying squad.
“We have been playing very well over the last few weeks,” O’Neill told the club’s media team.
“I thought we were brilliant or most of the game against Sligo. We controlled large parts of the game, and created plenty of chances to win the game, however we didn’t have that little bit of luck that we needed.
“We will be looking to keep the performances up on Friday night, and hopefully we can look to start building that bit of momentum as we look to start moving up the table.”
“Finn Harps will be pleased with their start to the season. They earned a great point, and were perhaps unlucky not to come away with all three, against Dundalk, and they ran Cork City very close in a seven goal thriller last week.
“No doubt they will be confident of coming down here and coming away with the three points.”
O’Neill will be without defender Evan Osam, who ruptured his achilles before the beginning of the season, while Farrugia, Davis and Paul Doyle all miss out with injury.
A promising start to the season for Finn Harps has hit a rough patch in recent days as Ollie Horgan’s side suffered three defeats in the space of eight days.
Fixture scheduling hasn’t helped them in that regard as they were forced to sandwich a trip to Tallaght on a Monday night between games with Sligo and Cork City.
The hectic fixture list may have contributed to Gareth Harkin suffering a nasty achilles tendon in the Shamrock Rovers game and he’s one of a number of absentees for Harps.
Harkin will miss most of the season, while Mark Timlin remains out, but John Kavanagh will return to the squad after missing the game against parent club Cork last week.
“We must be prepared for an onslaught from UCD tomorrow night,” Horgan told the club’s website.
“They were unlucky not to get something from the game against Sligo Rovers and that will make them doubly determined to throw everything at getting three points against us on their home pitch.
“We were beaten twice by UCD last season and drew with them in Belfield near the end of the season. They might only have a point this season but we are only one better than them.
“UCD also have a game in hand on us now. Neither of us have won a league game so far this season so the pressure is on both of us try and get results as soon as possible.
“The last week hasn’t been good for us with three defeats on the trot but we have to batter on. If we keep positive and put the work in hopefully more points will come but it’s going to be very difficult for us.”
Harkin and Timlin are confirmed absentees for Friday night’s game, while Nathan Boyle and Caolan McAleer are both doubts after picking up knocks and missing training during the week.
Referee: Robert Harvey
The sides met three times in the First Division last year as both claimed promotion, UCD as champions and Harps through the play-offs.
UCD won two of those games, a 3-2 win at the UCD Bowl, in which Georgie Kelly netted a hat-trick, and a 3-1 win in Finn Park with Daire O’Connor scoring twice.
Both of those players have since left but it was Kelly’s replacement, Conor Davis, who scored the vital goal to secure a draw in their final meeting, which clinched the title for O’Neill’s men.
Neither side has picked up a win so far this season. UCD have a sole home draw against St Patrick’s Athletic, while Harps drew at home to Dundalk and away at the Saints.
UCD 7/5; Draw 21/10; Finn Harps 15/8.
UCD 0 – 1 Finn Harps
Injured: Evan Osam (achilles), Paul Doyle (ankle), Neil Farrugia (knee), Conor Davis (knee).
Injured: Gareth Harkin (achilles), Mark Timlin.
Doubtful: Nathan Boyle, Caolan McAleer.