Finn Harps -v- Waterford UnitedSat, Sep 29 2012
While the best possible league finish for Finn Harps would see them retain their present fourth position, the Donegal club will be aware that they will have a significant say in which teams still have a chance to gain promotion to the top flight when the last round of league fixtures wrap up on October 13th.
This involvement begins this weekend with the visit of Waterford United: “Saturday will be a very tough game and Waterford will be buoyed by their win against Longford last weekend which has given them a good chance of still finishing top, so we know what’s at stake,” stated Harps boss Peter Hutton, whose side will also welcome third placed Longford Town to Finn Park on the last day of the season.
Added to this Finn Harps will be looking to extend their ten match unbeaten run to the end of the season, but Hutton has issued a warning to his troops. “It would be great but we’re not getting carried away,” he said. “We have three tough games left – two against sides pushing for automatic promotion and the other fighting desperately to reel in Mervue United at the bottom of the table. But all we’re concentrating on is Waterford.”
Having maintained the unbeaten run with a 2-2 draw with Wexford Youths last week, Hutton will again choose from the same near full-strength squad he had for the trip to Ferrycarrig Park, with cruciate ligament injury victims Stephen O’Donnell, Hugh Carlin and Blain Curtis all unavailable, while Gary Merritt is a doubt with a groin injury.
Waterford United travel to Ballybofey on the back of last weekend’s vital 4-2 win over fellow promotion chasers Longford Town at the RSC; their third win on the spin. That victory lifted them above Longford into second place and the Blues are now just four points behind leaders Limerick FC and the automatic promotion spot.
Waterford’s remaining fixtures against Finn Harps, Mervue United and Athlone Town suggest that the ticket into the Premier Division is still achievable should the leaders slip up, with Blues manager Paul O’Brien stressing: "We must now go on and win our three remaining games and see where that will bring us."
For the long trip to the north-west O'Brien will be without long-term absentee Gary Dunphy, while Stephen Mulcahy is the only concern with a niggling hamstring injury, but he is expected to be available for selection. Paul Carey returns from suspension, and Peter White is also back in training this week after injury kept him out of the Longford game.
With a place in the promotion play-off assured O’Brien is optimistic his players can finish the season with a flourish. "Finn Harps is the game we will focus on now, and this win tonight (against Longford) will see us travel to Donegal in a great frame of mind. We will have to be mentally strong as well as physically strong over the next three weeks, but one thing is sure and that is we are in for an exciting climax to the season."
Referee: Rob Harvey.
Paul O'Brien's first league match in charge of the Blues was against Finn Harps at Ballybofey last year, which he lost 1-0. Peter Hutton's first game in sole charge after Felix Healy's exit was against the Blues at Ballybofey this year, which he also lost 1-0.
The Blues have had the better of the 12 games since both sides ended up back in the First Division in 2009; Waterford coming out on top on six occasions with Finn Harps winning only twice.
This match sees two of the First Division’s leading marksmen coming face-to-face. Harps’ Kevin McHugh has found the net 12 times so far this term, while Waterford’s Sean Maguire raised his tally to 14 after grabbing a hat-trick against Longford last time out.
Finn Harps 11/4; Draw 9/4; Waterford United 10/11.
Finn Harps 1-1 Waterford United.
Finn Harps Injury News: Stephen O’Donnell, Hugh Carlin, Blain Curtis.
Finn Harps Suspension News: None.
Waterford United Injury News: Gary Dunphy.
Waterford United Suspension News: None.